Firm foundations: Former WHS basketball coach Ron Vorwald is being elevated to the state Hall of Fame
WORTHINGTON -- A well-known professional coach once said, "Don't become a coach unless you're prepared for a lifetime of disappointment." Ron Vorwald, who coached boys basketball at Worthington High School from 1989 to 2013, listened to the quote...
WORTHINGTON -- A well-known professional coach once said, “Don’t become a coach unless you’re prepared for a lifetime of disappointment.”
Ron Vorwald, who coached boys basketball at Worthington High School from 1989 to 2013, listened to the quote. He shook his head, smiling.
“I don’t believe it,” he said.
Vorwald’s coaching record is firmly in the books, and though of course there were both hills and valleys associated with it, he looks back at it now and marvels. The life of a coach, he maintains, is “rich with relationships.”
The longtime WHS mentor also won a lot. So in October, Vorwald -- who posted a 364-212 career record with the Trojans including state tournament berths in 1994, 1998 and 2012 -- will be inducted into the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame Awards Banquet is at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14, at the Minneapolis Sheraton West.
Vorwald won by adhering to a simple philosophy, and by holding players to a high standard. He instilled discipline in his practices, which carried over into games.
“I had a lot of good players,” he said this week. “I knew that if we did things right -- and our foundation right from the start was to play very good man-to-man defense and push the ball up the floor -- I hoped we’d be fun to watch. But I really believed that defense and rebounding were the foundations of basketball. And if we did those things well …
“We won some games where we shot below 20 percent.”
In 1994 the Vorwald-led Trojans earned their first state tournament berth since 1921 following a victory over Monticello in the section finals, a game the head coach called “an absolute war.” Mark Hageman, Doug Brands, Ty Timmons, Jeff Drent, Adam Hale, Casey Werner, Josh Noble and Chris DeGroot were the leaders on that team.
Ironically, in three state tournament appearances, the Trojans weren’t able to come up with a victory -- though a few of the games were extremely tight.
Vorwald, a Wisconsin native, played middle linebacker on the Iowa State University football team via athletic scholarship before transferring to Mankato State University for his final two years. He began his coaching career in Fort Dodge, Iowa, teaching ninth-grade football, basketball and track for six years. He accepted a physical education teaching position in Worthington in 1983 and served as assistant football and track coach while coaching seventh-grade basketball. He began coaching the varsity basketball team upon the retirement of 28-year head coach Don Basche in the 1989-90 season.
Throughout his career, “Coach V” was known as a tough competitor. He could be tough with his players, and tough with referees. Player practices were tightly controlled.
“We valued practice. Our practices were very organized and every minute was crucial to getting better,” he said. “We made our kids accountable both on the floor and off the floor.”
To hold players accountable, Vorwald said, seems to be a more difficult task in today’s sports climate.
“I don’t think kids have changed. I think that kids will give you what you demand,” he explained. “But I think the whole scope of athletics has changed where kids are less likely to accept coaching and criticism. I do think that coaches get into trouble with administration and parents a lot more easily today by being critical -- and just coaching, trying to correct things. I think that kids are expecting something, sometimes, for nothing rather than understanding that it takes work.”
When Vorwald was informed of his Hall of Fame induction, he said he was humbled.
“The first thought was that I was blessed. I’ve had a very supportive wife, and I had three boys that all played for me, and they were a joy to coach. I’m thankful for the assistant coaches that I had, the junior high coaches and elementary coaches. And just terrific players,” he said.
It was after the 2012-13 season, after the last of his three sons graduated high school, that he stepped down as the WHS boys basketball head coach.
“I still miss coaching, and relationships with kids, and teaching about basketball,” he said, though adding that many friendships with former players are still going strong.