PITTSBURG — Since taking over as boys’ basketball head basketball coach at St. Mary’s-Colgan in 1983, Wayne Cichon has been winning games and making a positive impact on those around him.
After notching the 600th win of his career in a game against Columbus last week, and surpassing it on Friday in a win against Frontenac, Cichon took time time to reflect on his time with the Panthers.
“It’s one of those accomplishments that’s a milestone in your career that gives you a sense of pride as a coach,” Cichon said. “It’s an elite group. I thought hitting 500 was pretty unique in itself, but after 600 wins, coaches begin to start getting out of the business. So, to reach 600 and still be enthusiastic about coaching is something that I want to make sure I can maintain. I still enjoy coaching, being around the kids and molding them to be good, young men.”
Throughout the years, Cichon has led the Panthers to 11 CNC championships and five state titles.
“Each championship seasons have their own special memories,” Cichon said. “The first one is always big. The year was 1996 when we won it the first time with me as head coach, and we made two free throws at the end to win the game. The 2002 season was also special because my son was on that team. We had a great team, but for a father to coach his son in a game like that is always special.”
Cichon said he’s been fortunate to coach many talented basketball players, but maybe none more so than the group he had in his first state championship win.
“I think hands down the best player that I’ve coached here at Colgan has been Pat McNally,” he said. “He was the player who hit the two free throws to give us the win in the state championship game in 1996. He has more points and more rebounds than anyone I’ve ever coached. He scored 1,799 points by the end of his career. We’ve had some great scorers over the years, but because of our depth, we haven’t had players score as much as Pat did.”
Although having gifted athletes come through the program is a big reason for the team’s success, Cichon said they are only part of the equation.
“In addition to all of the players who have played for me, I also think about all of the great assistant coaches and administration who have supported me through my tenure here,” he said. “Everybody has been great, but the most important supporters I have has been my family. They’ve been really generous in allowing me to do this and they deserve a lot of credit.”
The Colgan tradition is something Cichon is proud to be apart of.
“I think my love for coaching here at Colgan has a lot to do with everything that goes along with coaching at a catholic school,” Cichon said. “I think the kids are tremendous. They’re disciplined and focused in all of their activities. Not only basketball, they also take pride in their academics. Plus, the faith aspect is really important to me. I wanted to send our kids to a catholic school and we were able to send all three through the entire 13-year system.”
Cichon’s said his love and appreciation for the school goes beyond words.
“It’s so hard to put into words the feelings I have for this place,” he said. “Colgan has been so good to me and my family over the years and there’s a lot of love that goes both ways. I just have a hard time describing what I’ve been through the past 35 years here at this school.”
Hanging from the walls inside SMC Fieldhouse are several banners which honor the accolades earned by past teams which played under Cicon’s tutelage, but there’s still one accomplishment which has been eluding him.
“I had one goal when I started here and I don’t think I’m going to be able to accomplish it,” Cichon said. “One of my mentors was Walt Shublom. He won 10 state championships in 14 years, so one of my goals was to match him. I knew that was a really lofty goal, but he taught me a lot about the game of basketball and how to coach. His mentoring was big for me and it’s so hard to accomplish what he did. He also had two or three second-place trophies in those 14 years, so in my mind, he’s the best high school basketball coach of all time in the state of Kansas.”
Regardless of what happens next, Cichon hopes his legacy will continue long after he decides to step down as head coach.
“A lot of people have asked me about retirement, but it’s so hard to pinpoint that time,” Cichon said. “I love teaching math and I really enjoy being in the classroom. I really enjoy coaching kids after school and guiding them to be good, young men. God will determine when it’s time for me to step down. When that time comes, hopefully, I can turn the reins over to my son and he will continue the legacy.”
— Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer.