As Sam Sees It
What a great honor Winslow High School girls' basketball coach Don Petranovich would have received this week! He would have been coaching the White Jersey Team in the WBCA High School All-American Game at Boston on Saturday. To get this opportunity, Petro had to be voted one of the two top girls' high school coaches in the country by a committee of his peers. He has to have narrowly missed being named as the National WBCA High School Coach of the Year, an honor that went to Kevin Kiernan of Troy High School in Fullerton, California.
Petranovich would have been coaching talent rarely seen on the same basketball court. It would have been like having a team to work with that included Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Germaine O'Neil, Tim Duncan, Mike Bibby and six or seven more players of equal quality. You can bet that his team wouldn't have any players who are not destined to play and probably star at a major university. Some will compete for NCAA championships and some will play in the WNBA. Don't worry, though, the players on Kiernan's team will be just as talented.
This has been a very memorable year for Petranovich. He was finally honored by the school he graduated from nearly half a century ago and has taught and coached at for more than 30 years. The naming of the Don Petranovich Gymnasium was a very unique and special occasion that he and his family and friends will cherish the memories of forever.
Reaching back just a little over a year, the 2004-2005 Lady Bulldogs gave Petro his sixth Arizona State Championship by playing one of the most nearly perfect basketball games one could ever hope to see. The crushing of a good Seton Catholic team which had its own "blue chip" player was a sight to behold and a tribute to the great game plan of a great coach.
Petro and I go back a long ways, but we have been rivals at least as often as we have been teammates of some kind. We did coach football together and have shared ideas on basketball. Had my health been better at the time, I would have accepted an offer to help him by coaching a freshman team a few years ago. Mostly, though, we have been rivals and you would be surprised at the fond memories that come from a good rivalry.
Fast pitch softball might have been the favorite game to play for both of us. Petro was one of the better "pesky" hitters in the league. He was almost impossible to strike out and would work a walk, bunt his way on base or slap a single through the hole or just over the infield.
We were both fierce competitors who played hard every minute we were on the field. When we started talking about this honor Petro will be getting, we were at a softball tournament. He said, "Sam, we used to have a lot of fun on this old field."
We sure did. Winslow had some very, very good fast pitch softball players, too. We started naming them again and remembering the good old days. We agreed that it Winslow still had a men's fast pitch league, some of those "old timers" would still be trying to play.
Petranovich explained to me the reasons for the Arizona Interscholastic Association rule against coaches accepting offers to coach all star games during the school year. It could have been better written and allowed such unique honors as this one to be accepted, but it wasn't. The purpose, though, was a good one and was for the betterment of high school athletics in the state. It is just too bad that Petro had to be the one who suffered from the rule. He, though, rightly believes that countless student athletes are benefiting from the rule having been adopted. In doing so, he is putting the welfare of student athletes above his own.
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