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Schools of Thought: Derwin steps into the light

March 9, 2009
By BILL CAIN, The Leader-Herald

Jim Mraz is a tall man - he cast a shadow two years long.

Mraz coached the Johnstown girls' basketball team to three Section II Class B championships in four years. In his final season at the helm, the Lady Bills finished 19-4 overall with a Foothills Council championship and a 45-34 sectional championship win over Schuylerville.

He steered the Lady Bills to sectional titles in 2003, '05 and '06 before handing the whistle to then-assistant Tim Derwin.

Since then, through two 10-win seasons, Derwin's teams have time-and-again been compared to the teams Mraz skippered. In the 2006-07 season, Johnstown was 10-12 overall and 7-7 in the Foothills Council. In the 2007-08 season, it was 10-11 overall, 8-6 in the league. Inevitably, his coaching has been compared to that of Mraz.

More to the point, the level of success Derwin's teams reached - the way most people take the measure of a coach - was compared to that of Mraz era.

Now at the end of a 20-4 season with a 12-2 Foothills Council record, a conference championship and a trip to the sectional finals, Derwin can feel the sun on his face.

As he stands there basking in it, his players stand right beside him.

He will want all the credit to go to the girls who actually wore the jersey, played the defense, made the baskets. It should, too.

Derwin had a very user-friendly group of players this year. He had a young leading scorer and seniors who were less interested in personal stats than winning. They got sophomore Hillary Kollar the ball and let her work. They hit the boards and played defense, adding what they could, when they could.

The bench was long and consistent. Rebecca Kosowicz and Kendra Cooper were the first two off the bench, often at the same time, each providing more than most No. 6 players in the league. Both probably could have started on most teams in the league.

Coaches still make a difference, though.

Mraz, too, had good players, but he molded them into champions.

As much as their success was his, the success of this year's Lady Bills is shared with Derwin.

As quick as he is to deflect the credit - and he avoids taking it himself as some people avoid taking blame - for his team's success to his players, I have no doubt his players would send it right back to him.

Now, both he and the players who return next season have a new shadow from which to emerge - the shadow of this season.

After Saturday's loss in the sectional championship game, Derwin noted how the bar was raised as the season progressed. When the Lady Bills kept winning, their expectations had to be adjusted.

Now they know how successful they can be and how to do it.

They will return a good portion of this year's team and will undoubtedly set their goals fairly high, going after those goals just as hard as they did this season.

It's the burden of being successful, I guess. I have to believe, though, that working out of his own shadow will be a far more welcome challenge for Derwin than escaping the shadow of his predecessor.



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