John Wilson said the time is right to turn his focus away from coaching basketball.
Wilson stepped down as Dickinson High’s head boys basketball coach on Thursday after seven seasons, citing family and his health as the primary reasons for the decision.
He leaves the program with a 71-81 overall record.
“I just felt it was time for me and my family to take care of me,” he said.
Wilson endured his share of ups and downs as head coach.
His tenure began in the 2008-09 season with a third-place finish at the Class A state basketball tournament. However, that was the only time he’d lead the Midgets to state.
Wilson said untimely injuries — including one that kept star guard Joe Hanstad sidelined for much of the 2010-11 season — and other issues, such as suspensions and rough starts to the season, made the job difficult at times.
Still, he said he is proud of the coach he became during those times.
“If you really want to know what I think a good coach is, it’s a coach who is going to be there for kids through the good times and the bad,” he said.
He fondly recalled his first season and the trip to state, the players he coached over the years, as well as a deal he made with the 2009-10 team that he and then-assistant coach Dan Pender would shave their heads if the team defeated Bismarck Century — which they did in the locker room after the victory.
“I’m really happy that it happened,” he said of his coaching career. “I’m going to walk away with my integrity and knowing I gave it my best. The critics will say what they want to say.”
Wilson said it’s hard to pin down what he believes is his most memorable moment as head coach. But, he said more recently being invited to weddings of former players holds a special meaning to him.
“Those are the greatest memories,” he said. “The camaraderie of the kids that come up and they still call you coach.”
Wilson began coaching at Dickinson as a junior high coach. After six seasons doing that, he spent the next six seasons as an assistant coach under Dean Winczewski, whom he replaced in 2007. In all, he has spent 19 years as a coach in the Dickinson Public School system.
He’ll continue to teach art at Hagen Junior High and coach freshman football.
“I’m just thankful I got a chance to live a dream, and got to deal with a lot of great kids and met a lot of great parents,” he said. “It’s a tough job.”
Dickinson activities director Guy Fridley thanked Wilson for his time leading the program and said he “touched a lot of kids’ lives in a positive way.”
“You don’t judge coaches on wins and losses,” Fridley said. “At the end, it’s how many athletes and students you helped out along the way in all aspects of life. We’re disappointed to see him go. On the other hand, John did a great job in terms of getting kids involved and wanting to make sure kids had opportunities. He put the kids first.”
Fridley said the school plans to move forward with finding Wilson’s replacement in the coming weeks. He said the decision must be made soon because Dickinson’s summer kids camps and team camps require a head coach.
He said the district’s administration is not limiting itself to coaching candidates that are also teachers.
“The biggest thing we want is we want to hire the best basketball coach possible,” Fridley said. “If it’s a teacher or non-staff person, we want to hire the best possible person we can for the job.”