"I’ve been lucky here"
Those who have followed high school girls basketball in any fashion over the past 25 years probably know the name Dan Druivenga. The Panorama head coach has been a mainstay on the local basketball scene, and this season he reached a fitting milestone, 400 wins as a coach.
The 2016-17 season is Druivenga’s 24th at Panorama. He was head girls coach at Yale-Jamaica-Bagley (YJB) for two seasons before the school joined with Panora-Linden and became Panorama. Druivenga spent six seasons as an assistant coach under Louis “Bud” McCrea, a member of the high school coaching Hall of Fame with 498 wins in his career, before taking the helm for the 1993-94 season. That year was the first for the Panorama girls program in the five-player girls game as the state said goodbye to Six-on-Six.
In the past 10 years, Druivenga-led Panther teams have gone 193-39. This year’s team carries a 20-1 mark and are the seventh-ranked team in Class 2-A. The Panthers open regional tournament play on Tuesday, Feb. 14 in Panora with tip-off at 7:00 p.m. They await this Saturday’s winner between Fort Dodge St. Edmond and Eagle Grove.
Druivenga is not the type to brag about himself, choosing instead to focus on his players, but said recently he is thankful for all the support he’s received from the school communities and beyond over the years.
“I’ve been lucky here,” Druivenga said. “It says I’ve been around a long time, and we’ve had good talent.”
Druivenga knows you don’t win 400 games without having plenty of help -- plenty of help from the players on the floor and plenty of help from the assistant coaches parked on the bench, working diligently at practice and in the off-season for the success of the program.
Also, plenty of help from parents, many who volunteer time to coach youth teams as early as third grade, and teach fundamentals necessary -- in Druivenga’s case 24 seasons - to pile up such an impressive number of victories.
So when No. 400 arrived on December 6, 2016 in a 48-34 win over Earlham, and Druivenga was asked to reflect on a career that has featured 12 conference championships and five state tournament appearances, he found himself thankful for the situations he has found himself in at Panorama.
While high school basketball teams across the state of Iowa are struggling with a decline in the number of girls participating in basketball, the traditionrich girls program in Panora continues to succeed.
“I’ve always been lucky enough to have 20 girls out, it’s a nice number,” Druivenga said. Only once in his career has he had a roster with less then 20 players, that year all 15 players suited varsity.
Druivenga believes many factors have contributed to the success of the program, even though the landscape of high school athletics is far different than when he began his coaching career.
“You have to have a hand in it,” he said. “We don’t have a Bud McCrea that will go around and have 12 camps in the summer and teach kids the fundamentals today.”
Because of that, Druivenga believes the players today maybe aren’t getting the fundamentals they used to at an early age.
“AAU ball has replaced the team camps,” he said. “I think the camps have been replaced with games, so the kids don’t get the skills.”
He says junior high programs are playing more games, which means the kids are losing practice times.
“Kids aren’t getting the skills, then they hit junior high and they don’t think they are very good and we lose them,” Druivenga said. “It’s got to start with the younger kids, we have to get them in the gym.”
It’s why everyday of the summer, Druivenga opens the Panorama high school gym from 8:00 a.m. to 12 p.m. He holds individual lessons with players. Seniors must spend at least and hour and a half with their head coach, while freshmen are expected to get three hours of individual time in throughout the summer months.
“We usually do 20-minute workouts at a time and then they go practice it,” Druivenga said. “Most of them get it in, but sometimes I have had to spend an entire hour with a player to get their time in.”
Druivenga admits the extra hours are time consuming, especially since he also serves as the school’s assistant softball coach in the summer.
But he loves the skill development.
“I like it more than the games,” he said.
And he always has girls show up to the gym.
The Panorama girls also benefit from playing games together in the summer months, attending three to four team camps together in July or August.
Druivenga said he’s been lucky to have parents, who volunteer their time to take the team to a few others tourneys.
Several of the girls basketball players also play other sports at Panorama, something Druivenga encourages.
“You have to teach competition,” he said. “Now if a kid wants to specialize (in basketball), I’m not going to hold them back, but they need to be competitive, sports-minded. It’s a process and it gets you better for everything.”
Tim Lazenby joined Druivenga on the bench as his assistant coach at the start of the 1993-94 season and the pair have been together ever since.
“Intense is a good word, no matter what the score is,” Lazenby said of working alongside Druivenga. “He’s good at quick adjustments and taking suggestions.”
He’s also good at letting his assistant make decisions, but quick to let him know when he’s not happy about that decision.
“He has a famous saying, ‘Don’t take it personally’, which means he is telling us what we need to hear at that moment,” Lazenby said.
Maybe the best quality of the head coach, according to his longtime assistant, is the way he treats his players off the court.
“He has their back,” Lazenby said. “He will do whatever needs to be done to help them become successful in life.”
Druivenga has coached numerous all-conference and allstate players, many who keep in touch with him today. Thirteen of his players have gone on to play basketball at the college level.
Druivenga did not say how long he will keep coaching, or if he will go for 500 wins. He does know he’s found a great home as the head coach of the Panthers.