This isn’t going to happen again. In the modern day coaching profession across all sports, head coaches won’t build four-decade long careers at a single institution. Each job these days is a stepping stone to another. To keep a coach that will not only build a program, but a life at a single institution for 40-plus seasons will be practically impossible. And even now, today, it’s all but unheard of.
Of course, Walters State has two such men in Lady Senators coach Dave Kragel and his counterpart on the men’s side Bill Carlyle. Wednesday night, Kragel, reached a milestone that will likely never be matched. He picked up his 1,000th career women’s basketball head coaching win and every one has been with Walters State.
While his number of coaching victories is measurable, what Kragel has meant to the institution, and the women he’s coached for the last 43 years, isn’t.
“I congratulate Coach Kragel on this monumental achievement of winning 1,000 games,” WSCC President Dr. Tony Miksa said. “This milestone is a reflection of his many coaching abilities and knowledge of the game of basketball. However, knowing Coach Kragel, I would say he is more proud of the academic and personal achievements of the student-athletes he has coached and mentored during his incredible career at Walters State.”
It all started in 1977 when Carlyle was first hired as the WSCC men’s basketball coach. He needed an assistant and it just so happened there was also an opening on for a women’s head basketball coach as well.
“In 1977 I left Oklahoma State University and came to Walters State as head men’s basketball coach,” Carlyle said. “At the time, Jewel Morgan decided to step down as women’s basketball coach. I talked Dr. (Jack E.) Campbell into hiring David Kragel as my assistant coach and head women’s basketball coach. That turned out to be an outstanding hire. Dave has surpassed all expectations and he’s done a marvelous job coaching or ladies basketball team.”
Kragel recorded his first head coaching victory on Dec. 1, 1977, beating Morristown College 81-66. His 1,000th victory would come exactly 43 years, one month and 14 days later with a 96-66 blowout win over Roan State, a school that seems to earn this spot repeatedly in WSCC history.
“Congratulations, big guy, on your 1,000th career win,” Carlyle said. “I find it ironic that we both achieved our 1,000th victory at Roan State.”
Speaking after the win Wednesday night, Kragel was humbled by not only by the attention, but the accomplishment and what it’s meant not only to him, but the young women he’s guided over the years.
“I never thought this would ever happen,” Kragel said. “It’s all been because of the players playing for me. They’ve bought into what we have tried to do. The main reason that I coach is to get these kids scholarships, so that they can go somewhere else to play. That’s what it is all about.”
His impact will far outlast his lengthy career as his former player, and now assistant coach Jasmin Coleman can attest.
“I’m very blessed to have played and been able to coach alongside Coach Kragel for nine years,” Coleman said. “I learn something new from him each day. He has been battling for women’s basketball since 1977 and I want to thank him and congratulate him on 1,000 wins.”
As for Walters State, Kragel’s Lady Senators have been nationally ranked in 33 of his 43 seasons. Under his leadership, the WSCC women have won 15 Eastern Division Championships, 19 State Championships, 16 Region VII Champions and 10 TCCAA Championships.
It’s a resume that speaks for itself, and one that Walters State athletic director Derek Creech, himself a former Carlyle assistant, marvels at.
“To win 1,000 games is an unbelievable feat, but to have done it at the same institution makes it even more amazing,” Creech said. “Coach Kragel is one of the great basketball coaches, not only for winning games, but for shaping young ladies’ lives. The standard he has set at Walters State can only be admired. I’m honored to have been given the opportunity to work alongside this Hall of Famer and legend.”
While Kragel reached 1,000 victories Wednesday night, there’s still plenty of basketball ahead. There are TCCAA and Region VII titles to defend with another trip to the NJCAA national tournament at stake. A trip Kragel’s teams have made 16 times. The Lady Senators have made the tournament for the last eight consecutive years and are the favorites to make it a ninth.
More numbers, more achievements, it’s all in a day’s work for the winningest NJCAA women’s basketball coach of all time.
Photo Courtesy Walters State Athletics#1000 Dave Kragel Juco Walters State