Dwight Gingerich Inducted Into Iowa High School Basketball Hall of Fame

Dwight Gingerich Inducted Into Iowa High School Basketball Hall of Fame

Hillcrest Academy's Dwight and Mo Gingerich

Hillcrest Academy’s Dwight and Mo Gingerich

For Dwight Gingerich, a story of Fame and so many others

by PAUL D. BOWKER / THE NEWS, posted Saturday, March 16, 2024

When the Hall of Fame moment arrived for Hillcrest Academy boys basketball coach Dwight Gingerich, he was not alone. His wife, Mo, joined hands with Dwight as they walked out to center court at Wells Fargo Arena on March 8. Rows of family and friends filled a section behind one basket at the Well. Just before walking out there, he heard from another former player.

Dwight wouldn’t have it any other way. It has always been about others, and it always will be.

“It was really nice, for friends and family to come tonight, and some former players, and just enjoy this together,” he said. “It’s been about all of those people and so many more over a long period of time. So many have poured so much into the basketball experience over the years.”

“To be able to share that,” Gingerich said, “was fun tonight.”

Gingerich, who has been a coach for more than 40 years at Hillcrest and Iowa Mennonite School, has coached high school ball only there. He is a rarity among basketball coaches. One school. One place. The gym at Hillcrest Union is named after him. He is the Coach K of Hillcrest.

He was among six inductees to the Iowa High School Basketball Hall of Fame honored during halftime of the Class 3A boys championship game at Wells Fargo.

Among them was Kirk Speraw, a former Iowa Hawkeye player on a Big Ten championship team that went on to coach at Florida, UCF and Iowa. And Kent McCausland, an All-State player at Waterloo West who played with former Kansas and NBA star Raef LaFrentz, and with former Iowa State star Klay Edwards, who coaches against Gingerich at Winfield-Mt. Union.

And in a twist of fate, also among the six inductees was retired administrator and coach Bryce Smeins, whose Clear Creek Amana team lost to Gingerich’s IMS team in the 1992 state championship game.

“We’ve known each other a long time,” Gingerich said. “Competed against each other. It was cool.”

They shook hands, shared conversation and posed for a photo together.

It’s the Dwight way.

And as Hillcrest/IMS alums rolled in with their reactions, yes, it’s the Dwight way.

“Coach Gingerich didn’t just prepare us to win games,” said Jeremy Pickard, a 1994 alum. “He prepared us for life. His induction into the Iowa Boys High School Basketball Hall of Fame is a testament to the profound impact he has had on all of us, shaping not just players, but individuals ready to face the world with determination and grace.”

“Our teams weren’t the tallest, fastest or most athletic, but Dwight brought out the best in us as individuals and masterfully unified us as a team,” said Jeremy Yoder, who played on that 1992 team. “There have been many great Iowa High School basketball coaches, but in my opinion, Dwight is the GOAT.”

In those 42 years of coaching, Dwight has won 738 games, which places him tied for fifth on the state’s all-time winning list. You’d have to go back almost 30 years, to 1996, to find one of his teams with a losing record. Coaches around the Southeast Iowa Super Conference know that Hillcrest is not an easy out. And it’s because of the coach sitting at the end of the bench.

There is an expectation for each and every player.

And there’s a reward.

Dwight is also principal at Hillcrest Academy, a job that has its own demands.

But basketball is the thing. Did you know he used to be the IMS volleyball coach, as well?

After Hillcrest games are over and the crowds have gone home, Gingerich goes to the video to examine the plays that worked and the plays that didn’t work. The notebook is always out.

“There’s only so many minutes and hours in a day,” he said, “but I enjoy being able to watch as much as I can.”

His hoops journey is remarkable. He had four wins in his first year at IMS. The next year, six wins. And then seven. One year, IMS had no conference, leaving Gingerich and his team to face Iowa City West, Mount Pleasant and Fairfield, among others, all big schools. When Gingerich won his 700th game in December 2021, the stands at Hillcrest Union were filled.

The Ravens won 15 games this past season, beginning the year with a five-game winning streak and ending it with a four-game win streak that was halted by a loss to Maquoketa Valley, a 19-win team, in the Class 1A district tournament.

Five days after the season ended, Gingerich got the Hall of Fame call.

“It was a surprise when I got the phone call,” Dwight said. “Just kind of out of the blue and here we are. It’s a nice honor.”

“At the same time,” he added, “obviously it’s a reflection of so many people beyond me that I’ve had the opportunity to work with. All those players over many years.”

Again, it’s about the others. Dwight’s legendary way.

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Hillcrest/IMS alums react to Dwight Gingerich’s Hall of Fame induction

What they’re saying about Dwight …

 “Such a worthy achievement for this great coach!  For so many years Dwight has achieved the very challenging balance of relating to young men by being very easy to approach as a friend, but also carrying the authority he needed to teach solid skills to us that laid an amazing foundation for higher levels of success in the game of basketball.  I also appreciate the tools he equipped me with for coaching in ANY sport.  Congratulations Dwight!” – Ryan Hosteter ‘90

“Dwight Gingerich is one of the best coaches I ever played for. Teaching the fundamentals of basketball is a skill that not all coaches have.  Coach Dwight did it in a way that helped us understand why we were learning it and why it would help our team more importantly. Dwight always has a way of getting the best out of every single individual on the team and totally understanding your role on the team, as well.  That’s what has made his teams reach levels we may not have all expected over the years. Thanks for everything Coach, I appreciate you!” – Jason Hershberger ‘92

“Being in the huddle with Coach Gingerich was akin to scoring 10 points in warmups. He was our hidden (or not-so-hidden) advantage that showed itself throughout the next four quarters. Coach Gingerich’s meticulous attention to detail, rigorous preparation, in-game adjustments, and the power of our collective system instilled a confidence within us that was pivotal for winning games. …  Coach Gingerich didn’t just prepare us to win games; he prepared us for life. His induction into the Iowa Boys High School Basketball Hall of Fame is a testament to the profound impact he has had on all of us, shaping not just players, but individuals ready to face the world with determination and grace.” – Jeremy Pickard ‘94

“Dwight is very good at the X’s and O’s of the game of basketball. This was something I learned as one of his former players. When I became a head coach I used a lot of his coaching philosophy with my own teams, which helped me have a lot of success.” – Stephen Bender ‘97

“Dwight has been not only a fantastic coach, but also a life-long friend, mentor, and advocate.  I’m so very grateful for his presence in my life.” – Doug Hochstetler ‘84

“You are incredibly deserving of this honor! Thank you for all the hours and hours of time you poured into me as a player, and more importantly, as a person. I will never forget the hierarchy of importance you repeated to us from basketball camps as a kid, to our senior year in high school: Faith – Family – School – Basketball. You helped many young men develop on the court but also made it your mission to foster good character off the court. I am incredibly grateful to have learned from you, Dwight. Congratulations!” – Tony Hostetler ‘06

“Growing up as a child and sports fan, the only thing I ever wanted to do was to play basketball for Dwight and play at the state tournament. I was fortunate enough, under Dwight’s coaching, leadership, mentorship and friendship, that I was able to do both of these things. I am forever grateful. Cheers to you Dwight on your induction into the IHSAA Hall of Fame!” –Clark Oswald ‘98

“As a young, untested coach in charge of coaching the boys JV, Dwight was a tremendous mentor and guide to me. We spent many hours talking about drills, strategy, and team-building. His passion for basketball is evident, but his highest priority has always been the welfare and growth of his student-athletes.” – Merrill Miller ‘78, assistant coach 1984–89

“Dwight instilled in me that hard work and determination will lead you through anything in life. I have memories that will last a lifetime playing under Dwight.” – Justin Boller ‘13

“Dwight promoted teamwork and work ethic for and from everyone, whether you were a significant contributor or a player who mostly contributed during practices to help prepare the team for the upcoming games. Dwight expected everyone, from the starting players to the reserves, to be prepared and help prepare each other. We were to be one team. All together for one purpose. That belief has carried over to what I try to do in my everyday life.” – Ryan Schrock ‘99

“As an adult, I look back and can appreciate more the ‘tough’ love I received from Coach Dwight while playing for him.  Coach Dwight knew what my potential and abilities were and strived to bring the best out of me. The lessons I learned from Coach Dwight on the basketball court are still being applied in my life many years later.” – Nathaniel Miller ‘02

“One thing that I admire about Dwight, but didn’t immediately realize as a player is his ability to lead and get the most out of everyone, for the greater good of the team. Over the years as I’ve grown my family and progressed my career, I realize more and more the importance of this skillset and appreciate the example Dwight set for me and the many other players he’s coached over the years.” – Del Borntrager ‘05

“Dwight has always known how to get the best out of each of the players that he’s coached. He’s not only a Hall of Fame coach, he’s a Hall of Fame mentor.” – Payton Miller ‘15

“Dwight helped me to grow as a basketball player, but more importantly he helped me grow in being a man of character, hard work and respect for others. His impact on me and others goes way beyond the basketball court, which is what makes him such an incredible coach.” – Jordan Prihoda ‘07

“It is an honor to have been a small part of Dwight’s storied coaching history and to have learned the fundamentals of basketball and building incredible teams from him. As players, Dwight showed us how to maximize our individual strengths, how to support each other through highs and lows, and instilled values of humility and community that I am incredibly grateful for to this day.” – Thomas Davis ‘06

“Great teams are built around individual team members that are more interested in the accomplishments of the team than their own personal achievements. Our teams weren’t the tallest, fastest or most athletic, but Dwight brought out the best in us as individuals and masterfully unified us as a team. There have been many great Iowa High School basketball coaches, but in my opinion, Dwight is the GOAT!” – Jeremy Yoder ‘92

“I played for Dwight for three years from 2001-2004 and then 10 years later had the privilege to be one of Dwight’s assistant coaches for four seasons. Coaching alongside Dwight, I realized how much time, preparation and energy all went into every season for Dwight. The four seasons coaching with Dwight highlighted how prepared Dwight had his teams for every game. Whether it was a game against a conference rival that we played two or three times per season or an opponent from the other corner of Iowa that we played in the state tournament, we were always prepared for what that team wanted to do.” –Luke Yoder ‘04

“I loved playing for Dwight. Giving less than my best effort felt like letting him down.” – Levi Ney ‘08