By Randi Pierce | Staff Writer
When the Pagosa Springs High School (PSHS) boys’ basketball team defeated the Ignacio Bobcats on Feb. 3 in Ignacio, coach Wes Lewis hit a new milestone in his coaching career: 300 wins.
The 300th win came in Lewis’ 16th year of coaching PSHS varsity basketball teams.
PSHS Principal Sean O’Donnell called the feat “phenomenal.”
“For him to accomplish that in 15 years, he had to average 20 wins a season to do that. That’s phenomenal,” O’Donnell said.
As of Wednesday, Lewis’ career coaching record for Colorado high school basketball is 300-74, meaning Lewis’ teams have won 80 percent of their games.
“It’s an amazing feat,” assistant coach Yul Wilson said. “He’s done it for a long, long time and done a lot of good things. He’s deserving of it, for sure. He’s coached a lot of good teams here and we’re all happy for him and proud of him.”
That also includes nine Final Four appearances with the Lady Pirate basketball team and a state championship.
“There’s a common denominator there,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell also pointed out that Lewis was able to accomplish the feat with homegrown talent, pointing out that, in some of the state’s metro areas, student athletes can choose their school based on successful programs.
“To do that here with homegrown talent and to average 20 … wins a year is pretty phenomenal,” he said. “It’s been really fun. You know, I’ve known Wes for a long, long time; it’s been fun to watch him grow as a coach.”
O’Donnell also relayed that he remembered when Lewis first took over coaching the girls’ program he had been a boys’ coach and there were questions over how he would shift to coaching girls.
“And he did it. He did it masterfully, I would say,” O’Donnell said. “I just think we are super fortunate to have such a talented basketball coach in this community. Our kids have been lucky.”
Lewis then successfully switched back over to coaching the boys’ team, O’Donnell pointed out.
Lewis coached the Lady Pirate basketball team beginning with the 2007-2008 season, spending 13 years at the helm of that team. He is now in his third season with the Pirate boys’ team.
Prior to that, Lewis coached the junior varsity boys’ squad and junior high boys’ team. He estimated he is in his 27th year of coaching.
Lewis explained he’s not sure what keeps him going, or how long he’ll keep going.
“I enjoy it a lot,” he said, adding, “The end is probably near. You know, I think I’m young enough that if I decide to get out in a few years that if I miss it I think can get back in somewhere. Maybe that’s as assistant, maybe that’s at the junior high level, maybe it’s back at the varsity level, who knows.”
Lewis explained he thought about resigning in 2014, after the Lady Pirates were the state runner-up.
“Sean O’Donnell talked me into staying and thank God he did ‘cause we won it the next year,” Lewis said.
By that point, he explained, his daughter was about to be in high school and he opted to stay and coach her through.
He ultimately resigned from being the girl’s head coach the same year coach Randy Sorensen resigned from leading the boys’ team, and Lewis noted he felt like he’d switch over and give it a try.
He is now coaching his son.
Lewis said he’s really enjoyed coaching the boys.
“I miss the heck out of the girls and loved all 13 years,” he said, adding there were great kids throughout and the team had a lot of success.
He added that coaching the boys’ team is a new and different type of challenge.
“The boys are great to coach and they’re bought in and they’re great to be around,” he said. “It does make it enjoyable to do it still.”
Lewis explained Larry Lister was the first to alert him to the fact that he was nearing 300 wins, with Lister having heard it on a Salida radio broadcast earlier this season.
“I knew I was probably close before the season,” Lewis said, but noted he hadn’t gone through the numbers to see how close. “After Larry pointed it out, why, then I knew I was gettin’ close.”
Lewis also focused on those who helped him reach the milestone.
“I would probably give a lot of credit to the players I’ve had. That’s obviously been predominantly on the girls’ side. I was there 13 years. Man, I had a lot of really, really good players and they deserve, you know, 85 percent of the credit. I just had some fantastic girl athletes, girl post players, [the] girls bought into everything. I’d also like to give my assistants some credit.”
Lewis also gave credit to the team of assistants he’s worked with, noting for most of the years with the girls it was Charles Rand and with the boys is Wilson.
“They deserve some credit for being right there,” he said.
He also credited coaches who came before him.
“I came off the Jim Shaffer coaching tree,” he said, “and probably a little bit needs to go back to him and give him some credit for the coaching tree I branched off of.”
‘He’s right there with some of the best’
PSHS Athletic Director Chantelle Jordan and Wilson commented on some of the things that set Lewis apart as a coach.
“One thing I really appreciate about Wes as a coach is he has a great ability or whatever you call it to know when to push and when to just stop and love on kids,” Jordan said.
She also noted he has a strong ability to coach a team to a win.
“So many of those wins he has coached to the win,” Jordan said. “He would never take the credit for it, he would give the credit to the kids, which is another reason why he’s such a great coach, but he coaches to the win. Like, I have no idea how he can call a timeout when we’re about to lose a game and he gets kids to do something that allows them to win. He coaches like crazy in practice, too. … He creates a positive, disciplined environment that, of course, to me, that’s the base of it, so he’s got that, but then he also can coach to the win during a game. He … figured it out on both sides of the coin.”
“He’s successful because he truly loves the game and truly wants the kids to succeed,” Wilson said. “He puts a lot of time and effort into it … and he gives up a lot of his life to be a coach, which is what it takes to be a good one. And, he’s right there with some of the best of them for sure. We’re all happy for him for sure.”