PITTSBURG — Few coaches have entered a program and immediately established a winning culture quite like former Pittsburg State Men’s Basketball Coach Clarence “Gene” Iba.
After amassing 261 wins and a .603 winning percentage during his career, Coach Iba was selected to be inducted into the MIAA Hall of Fame last week.
“It was a surprise. I happened to go to the ceremony last year, and I got to know a little more about it. It's an honor to be inducted into the MIAA Hall of Fame, because of the amount of great coaches that has been selected before me.” said Coach Iba.
“I tell people all the time, through all my years of coaching, at both the Division One and Division Two levels, I’ve never been alongside a better group of coaches then during my time in the MIAA.”
Coach Iba started his 15-year tenure at Pittsburg State in 1996. Coach Iba led the Gorillas to their first birth into the NCAA National Tournament in 1997, where PSU pushed into the Sweet 16.
“The year we made the Sweet 16, we had to go through the number four ranked team in the country. We beat a team that was physically as good as any team I coached against during my years in D1, so it was a special moment for the program and for the fans.” said Iba.
It was the first of three consecutive national tournament berths for the Gorillas. In 1999, Pitt State captured another first, this time winning their first MIAA regular season crown.
At one point that season, Pittsburg State ascended to No. 1 in the national rankings, a feat that helped Coach Iba earn MIAA Coach of the Year honors.
From 97-99, the Gorillas won 72 games, establishing themselves as a contender at the national level.
“We had a group of unselfish kids” said Iba. “They won games for each other, not themselves. You never saw someone take a contested shot. If one of their teammates were open, they always made the extra pass. They were really an exceptional group of players the way they embraced the team aspect of the game.”
Coach Iba would compile a 261-172 record at PSU, including two more national tournament berths in 2005 and 2007.
Iba points to the time he spent with players as what he enjoyed most about coaching.
“What is most important when it comes to the game of basketball, is that there are many qualities that a player will learn that relates directly to the rest of their life. The things that you learn on the basketball court in a team situation, good or bad, are skills that will stay with you.” said Iba.
“We had some really great kids. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to see players go from good players to great players, and, more importantly, go from good people to great people outside of the court” added Iba.