Sanford's Stan Waterman named DSBA Coach of the Year

Sanford's Stan Waterman named DSBA Coach of the Year

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Sanford's Stan Waterman named DSBA Coach of the Year

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Stan Waterman named DSBA Coach of the Year
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Sanford coach Stan Waterman gets his piece of the net after the Warriors edged St. Georges in the 2016 DIAA Boys Basketball Tournament championship game on March 18 at the Bob Carpenter Center.

Sanford coach Stan Waterman gets his piece of the net after the Warriors edged St. Georges in the 2016 DIAA Boys Basketball Tournament championship game on March 18 at the Bob Carpenter Center.

Stan Waterman has had banner years before, but never one like this.

In March, Waterman guided the Sanford School boys basketball team to the DIAA championship. In May, he celebrated his 50th birthday. In September, the school held a special ceremony and stamped his name on the basketball court in the athletic center.

Now, two weeks into the new year, the Delaware Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association has put a bow on Waterman’s 2016 by voting him as the state’s Coach of the Year. He will receive the Tubby Raymond Award at the 68th DSBA awards banquet, to be held at noon Feb. 20 at the Sheraton Wilmington South Hotel in New Castle.

“This year has been amazing,” Waterman said. “… I’ve had so many great things happen this year, it’s too good to be true.”

The state title was Waterman’s sixth in 25 years at Sanford, but the voters were convinced that this was his best coaching job. The Warriors had often won with rosters dotted with future college players, their talent overwhelming opponents as Waterman taught them to share the ball and balance the scoring. But this team was different.

Waterman broke out of his mold by allowing Mikey Dixon to carry the offensive load. The 6-foot-2 senior scored 26.0 points per game, more than twice the 12.4 average of Jacob Walsh, Sanford’s second-leading scorer.

“When you get a special talent like that, as a coach you’ve got to be smart enough to sometimes just get out of his way,” Waterman said.

Waterman helped the other key seniors – Walsh, Kyle Evans and Freddie Ryle – realize that scoring wasn’t going to be their No. 1 priority. The result was a tight-knit unit that played defense, rebounded and produced a 21-2 season. The Warriors’ only losses came to national powers Westtown School (Pennsylvania) and La Lumiere (Indiana).

“The other guys were unselfish enough to relinquish some of what they would normally do, because they realized Mikey was special,” Waterman said. “One, they knew how to play. Two, they were very unselfish. They didn’t care who got the glory. All they wanted to do was win, and they were willing to do whatever it took.”

Sanford’s all-around expertise was on full display in the semifinals and finals of the DIAA tournament at the Bob Carpenter Center. The Warriors scored more than 60 points 15 times, but both Mount Pleasant and St. Georges slowed the pace and took them out of their comfort zone.

It didn’t matter. Sanford grinded past the Green Knights 38-30 in the semis. The Hawks led 31-29 with 4:24 to play in the championship game, but Sanford scored 10 of the last 11 points to win 39-32.

“You’ve got to be able to play at two speeds,” Waterman said. “We like to be able to get up and down the floor and play in transition. But when that doesn’t happen, you’ve got to be able to execute in a half-court set as well.”

Mount Pleasant coach Lisa Sullivan knows Waterman well, having served as Sanford’s girls coach previously. She knew the Warriors could adapt to whatever her team could throw at them.

“It’s almost like a chess game,” Sullivan said. “You make adjustments, he makes adjustments. You’re not going to outcoach him. You can try to keep up with him, but you’re not going to outcoach him.”

The Green Knights were devastated after their semifinal loss, and Sullivan consoled her players in the locker room for 45 minutes.

“When I walked out, Stan and his wife were standing there waiting for me,” Sullivan said. “That meant a lot. So he’s not just a great coach, he’s a first-class act.”

Early start in coaching

Waterman starred as a point guard at Howard High and the University of Delaware, then spent one year as an assistant coach at Wilmington College before assisting Thom Shumosic with Sanford’s 1991 championship team.

The next season – at the age of 24 – Waterman became the Warriors’ head coach.

“I was trying to carry myself in a much more mature, older way than I probably was at that time,” he said.

He must have done OK because Sanford repeated as DIAA champs in 1992.

“He had such a presence as an adult, as a basketball player and as a leader,” said Kenny Mitchell, who was a junior on Waterman’s first team. “I honestly didn’t know how old he was. I had no clue. It wasn’t until years later when I realized we were actually much closer in age than I thought.”

Waterman’s youth allowed him to take a hands-on approach.

“What was great was that he could get out on the court with us,” Mitchell said. “I was his very first point guard, and he was a point guard. He could give very direct pointers first hand.”

Mitchell went on to Dartmouth, where as a senior in 1997 he led NCAA Division I in assists at 7.8 per game. He now works in Chicago as head of global consumer engagement for Gatorade.

“I pride myself on taking a point guard’s approach to life and to business,” Mitchell said. “Making sure that everyone knows the game plan, everyone is put in a position to be their best self.

“I think I learned so much of that from Stan. Stan is somebody that you want to run through a wall for, but he’s also someone who cares about you deeply as a person.”

Mitchell is one of countless examples of Waterman’s coaching success. He has guided dozens of players into college basketball and/or successful business careers.

“My relationship with our players and our families, I don’t know if that’s way anywhere else,” Waterman said. “Guys you see that graduated 25 years ago, they still come back. They have relationships with our current guys and they talk to them about what college is like. It’s more than basketball.”

He sells Sanford, a small private school in Hockessin, as a place to receive a top-notch education and take basketball to the next level. Dixon (Quinnipiac), Sabri Thompson (Northwestern State), Khallid Hart (Marist) and Anthony Mosley (Delaware) are the most recent former Warriors enjoying success in Division I college basketball.

“It’s an easy sell,” Waterman said. “Success begets success.”

Always teaching

Jyare Davis may be the Warriors’ next collegiate star, already leading Sanford in scoring at 23.3 points per game as a 6-5 freshman.

“He’s taught me more efficient ways to score, how important defense is, how to be a complete player,” Davis said. “And he teaches us simple stuff that just makes my day better. Make sure to be respectful, simple stuff like that that can just help you in life.”

Waterman also enjoys seeing players improve, like Connor Rufo. The 6-3 senior has blossomed in his final year, upping his scoring average to 7.3.

“A lot of people just see him as a basketball coach, but I see him as a mentor and a teacher,” Rufo said. “In school, he’s always there to motivate you to do better. The same on the court, right when I come over here, he’s always pushing me to do better.”

On Sept. 24, the school paid him the ultimate compliment by naming the Warriors’ home floor Stan Waterman Court. Sanford also established the Stan Waterman Endowed Fund for Excellence in Coaching, which will be used annually to recognize an exceptional Sanford coach with a monetary award.

“That ceremony was an emotional moment for me,” Waterman said. “Even when I look back on it today, it was almost surreal. To have so many former players come back and community people come back, and some of the things they were saying about you, I just never think about myself in that light.”

The next milestone is 500 wins, as Waterman’s career record sits at 493-131 after a 36-30 victory over Salesianum on Tuesday night. This year’s Warriors are struggling at 7-7, but have won six of their last nine games following a 1-4 start.

“It does not seem, at any stretch, at any point, that it’s been 25 years,” Waterman said. “But then when you look back over the span of guys as they’ve come and gone, and now some of their kids are coming back, you start to think, ‘Wow, it’s been a long time.’

“But I’ve had such a great time coaching. I’ve had so much fun and learned and met so many people. It has gone by fast because it’s been so much fun.”

Contact Brad Myers at bmyers@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ

68th DSBA awards banquet

WHEN: Noon, Feb. 20

WHERE: Sheraton Wilmington South Hotel, 365 Airport Road, New Castle

TICKETS: $35, or $300 for a table of 10. Available at www.delasports.org

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