The Woden High School gym has become a lot more than just a court for head coach Paul Driver. It's become more like a second home.
“There's really not many coaches that stay at the same place their whole career so I think that's special. It's special for me,” said Driver.
The 60-year-old stepped foot on the Woden hardwood for the first time back in 1981 and 35 years later he sealed in 700 wins. At that rate, Driver has won on average 20 games a year in a sport that typically plays around 30 games during their regular season. All the victories have been with the girls basketball team at Woden.
It was a peak Driver never fathomed would become his reality.
“You first start coaching at age 25 and you're just happy to have a job,” said Driver. “You don't look into the future. It's something I never thought about.”
A 42-26 win over Woodville last Friday night sealed the deal for the big 700.
“He's been here for so long. He's been coaching and he coaches the right way so I'm not surprised,” said senior Shelby Brown.
As his tenure at Woden has gained the respect of his peers, it's also struck a chord with his players who wanted nothing more but to see Drive reach the 700 feat.
“Every time I walk into this gym and I see him, I want to play my hardest on and off the court,” said sophomore Britany Thompson.
“He's been coaching way longer than we've been here so I felt it was kind of an honor for us to be his players,” said Brown.
While the girls were thrilled to steer Drive towards this achievement, he felt just as honored to experience the 700th win with them.
“As you get older I think you appreciate things a little bit more as time goes on,” said Driver. “I think they were pretty excited about being part of it and I was just happy to share that with them.”
The team all came together and signed one of their basketballs as an honorary trophy for Driver's 700 wins, but they weren't the only ones excited.
Woden Elementary, who Driver is also the principal of, came together to surprise the coach with a celebratory pep rally.
“When we had our celebration, some even cried after his speech. I myself almost cried. It was important,” said Thompson.
“It was real emotional, really neat and it was a lot of fun. I don't know how they kept it a secret now-a-days,” said Driver.
As far as his key to success, Driver said he’s active with his community and believes he's been successful because of the company he keeps.
“I think it’s been about being able to be involved with the kids and kind of bring them up, get them in the system so-to-speak. We've had a lot of support in the community and I’ve been fortunate to be able to coach a lot of good people,” said Driver.
Driver reached 701 wins with a victory over Garrison this past Tuesday.
He has a shot at another win Friday when Woden takes on No. 3 Central Heights. The game will be at Central Heights and is expected to tip-off at 6:15 p.m.
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