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Jose Garcia

Multimedia Journalist/Historian

No. 10: Petranovich is 1st girls basketball coaching legend

Dec 4, 2012

Don Petranovich already gave Winslow more than that high school and city ever expected.

But being Arizona’s all-time leader in coaching victories for girls basketball didn't stop Petranovich from continuing to work at Winslow and in a close-knit community that admires the state’s first bona fide girls basketball coaching legend. Petranovich, 71, is in his 21st year as Winslow High’s athletic director. 

His love for teaching and Winslow High are what keeps him working at the school he graduated from. His work ethic is what helped Petranovich become an Arizona coaching legend.

Believing he wasn’t the smartest or best coach, Petranovich said he worked as hard as he could to try and get the best out of his players. That dedication was rewarded quickly, as he won the first of a state record tying eight titles two years after he started Winslow’s program in 1976.

Petranovich actually started coaching boys basketball first at Winslow before he was asked to coach girls.

“I didn’t change when I started coaching girls,” Petranovich said. “I used the same coaching philosophies as with the boys. They (girls) wanted to be treated as equals.”

Because of his commitment to his sport, Petranovich also played an important role in the growth of girls basketball in Arizona.

In 33 seasons, the 71 year old won 778 games and lost 159 (.830 win percentage), appeared in a state record 16 title games and won National Coach of the Year awards twice. Petranovich arrived in Winslow when he was six after his father, a railroad dispatcher, was transferred from New Mexico.

After graduating from Northern Arizona University, Petranovich returned to Winslow to teach and start a family with his wife of 44 years, Claylene. Claylene passed away four years ago because of complications she had with a blood clot.

The Petranoviches had two kids, Michael, 47, and Erick, 41, who also graduated from Winslow High.

“She (Claylene) was a tremendous backer of mine,” Petranovich said. “She never missed a game and became very knowledgeable. I’d come home and put the (game) tape in to watch and she would be right there analyzing the game.”

Petranovich now is a tremendous backer of the coaches he oversees, and he doesn’t intend to retire any time soon from his administrative post.

“I’ve enjoyed my job,” Petranovich said. “Since I was in fifth grade, my dream was to become a teacher, and now I’m an athletic director. Not too many people can come to work every day and look forward to going to work. I do. God gave me a good opportunity to do a lot of things that I’ve enjoyed.”

Throughout the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years aia365.com will celebrate the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s 100th anniversary by unveiling 100 of the top moments and people who helped shape the landscape of high school sports in Arizona. If you would like to recommend a story idea for this project, you can e-mail it to me or post it on our Facebook page.  

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