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Les Willsey

Staff Writer, AIA365.com

Miner Webster's road to 700 wins bleeds uncanny consistency

Jan 11, 2013

How has Miner Webster forged a career coaching girls basketball to a level of excellence that is difficult to fathom?

Like an episode on the History or Discovery channels, here's an attempt to unearth the hidden secret to a 25-year run that has the unassuming mentor primed for a 700th victory, three wins and perhaps a week away.

The query starts with the foremost authority on Webster, Steve Erwin. Erwin has assisted Webster in 22 of his 25 years as coach at  Highland and Gilbert  high schools.

Erwin may step aside after this season for good (he had a two-year hiatus earlier in the new millennium), but the ride he's taken as Tonto to Webster's Lone Ranger is one filled with appreciation and a boatload of winning.

"I thought about not coming back this year and then I realized he was probably going to win his 700th game," Erwin said. "I wanted to be part of that. It's hard to pinpoint what it is about Miner. All the things he's accomplished coaching have been amazing. The most amazing thing about him, and maybe that's it, is his ability to communicate with kids. He does it  like no other. He also has a true love of the game and for his players."

Erwin  -- and everyone else -- should be astonished by Webster's body of work.  Webster's 697-106 record to date between Gilbert (two state titles -- 1991 and 1992) and Highland (six state titles -- '94, 95, '03, '05, '08, '09) is gaudy enough. His winning percentage is outlandish at 87 percent., higher than the state's all-time winningest girls coach, Winslow's  Don Petranovich (778 wins and 83 percent victories)  That consistency factor remains intact  in state championship games 8-1 (89 percent). And again with an 85 percent success rate in five years at Gilbert High (123-22) and 87 percent success at Highland (574-84). Webster's teams have won 20 or more games every year but one (19 at Gilbert High his first year) and lost in double figures just once (10 at Highland in 2005-06). That year was his worst -- (21-10).

Win No. 700 is looming and could come as early as Thursday Jan. 17 when Highland plays host to Mesquite. A 700th win would make Webster the fourth coach in state history (boys or girls) to accumulate 700 wins -- Winslow's retired Petranovich (778), Mesa Mountain View's boys coach Gary Ernst (785-active) and  Sahuaro's retired boys coach Dick McConnell (774).

Oddly enough, should win No. 700 take place vs. Mesquite it would come against a former player of Webster's at Gilbert High, Mesquite coach Candice Gonzales, Candice Forsgren in her time playing at Gilbert.

Gonzales', who played on Webster's first two state championship teams at Gilbert,  paints a picture of Webster as a matter-of-fact coach who managed to squeeze the best out of his players regardless of ability level.

"He wanted you to work hard, and we did," Gonzales said. "He wasn't a yeller or a screamer. We worked hard at practice and had fun. We respected him. I've tried to have that same philosophy."

Fast forward to 2013 and a current player's assessment of Webster, senior guard Olivia Lucero. Highland lives by the mantra "Perfection requires intensity in daily effort."

"He strives for perfection and wants us to do the same," Lucero said. "He's set in his ways. He doesn't change. Look at what he's done. Why fix it if it isn't broken?

"We have fun at practice. When it's time to be serious we work. He doesn't like losing, but if you're playing hard and knows you are, that's what matters. We were behind in a tournament game two weeks ago. He knew we were giving our best. At halftime he boosted us up. Nothing negative. He wanted us to keep fighting. We didn't win, but we came back and made it close. You want to give your best for him." 

Obviously, Webster hasn't been on the losing end of games very often. Erwin says Webster frets more about losses than relishing wins with a couple exceptions.

"He works hard and  he's a genuine guy," Erwin said. "I don't know if he's the master of Xs and Os. I do know after a loss or when a season is over he's always wondering what he could have done better. He puts the onus of losses on himself."

Highland and Gilbert have churned out their share of standout players during Webster's time. Erwin says If one of those teams had a "star player"  that wasn't getting to shine as brightly as perhaps some liked, Webster would control it.

"When there were complaints from a parent, he made it known it's about team," Erwin said. "That's another reason he's been successful.  He gets kids to play as a team."

One of Erwins' best memories in his alliance with Webster came in the first year of the program at Highland. The Hawks were 27-3 in the 1993-94 season. And they won the 4A state championship beating Chaparral, 35-31.

"Our only losses that year were to Chaparral," Erwin said. "Each time we came closer to beating them (losses by 22, 15 and 9). Finally we got them in the championship game."

Sounds like hard work and a lot of determination. What defines Webster?  Quite possibly so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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