For Dwight Gingerich, a story of Fame and so many others

By Paul D. Bowker
Posted 3/16/24


When the Hall of Fame moment arrived for Hillcrest Academy boys basketball coach Dwight Gingerich, he was not alone.

His wife, Mo, joined hands with Dwight as they walked out to …

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For Dwight Gingerich, a story of Fame and so many others



When the Hall of Fame moment arrived for Hillcrest Academy boys basketball coach Dwight Gingerich, he was not alone.

His wife, Mo, joined hands with Dwight as they walked out to center court at Wells Fargo Arena on March 8.

Rows of family and friends filled a section behind one basket at the Well.

Just before walking out there, he heard from another former player.

Dwight wouldn’t have it any other way.

It has always been about others, and it always will be.

“It was really nice, for friends and family to come tonight, and some former players, and just enjoy this together,” he said. “It’s been about all of those people and so many more over a long period of time. So many have poured so much into the basketball experience over the years.”

“To be able to share that,” Gingerich said, “was fun tonight.”

Gingerich, who has been a coach for more than 40 years at Hillcrest and Iowa Mennonite School, has coached high school ball only there. He is a rarity among basketball coaches. One school. One place. The gym at Hillcrest Union is named after him. He is the Coach K of Hillcrest.

He was among six inductees to the Iowa High School Basketball Hall of Fame honored during halftime of the Class 3A boys championship game at Wells Fargo.

Among them was Kirk Speraw, a former Iowa Hawkeye player on a Big Ten championship team that went on to coach at Florida, UCF and Iowa. And Kent McCausland, an All-State player at Waterloo West who played with former Kansas and NBA star Raef LaFrentz, and with former Iowa State star Klay Edwards, who coaches against Gingerich at Winfield-Mt. Union.

And in a twist of fate, also among the six inductees was retired administrator and coach Bryce Smeins, whose Clear Creek Amana team lost to Gingerich’s IMS team in the 1992 state championship game.

“We’ve known each other a long time,” Gingerich said. “Competed against each other. It was cool.”

They shook hands, shared conversation and posed for a photo together.

It’s the Dwight way.

And as Hillcrest/IMS alums rolled in with their reactions, yes, it’s the Dwight way.

“Coach Gingerich didn’t just prepare us to win games,” said Jeremy Pickard, a 1994 alum. “He prepared us for life. His induction into the Iowa Boys High School Basketball Hall of Fame is a testament to the profound impact he has had on all of us, shaping not just players, but individuals ready to face the world with determination and grace.”

“Our teams weren’t the tallest, fastest or most athletic, but Dwight brought out the best in us as individuals and masterfully unified us as a team,” said Jeremy Yoder, who played on that 1992 team. “There have been many great Iowa High School basketball coaches, but in my opinion, Dwight is the GOAT.”

In those 42 years of coaching, Dwight has won 738 games, which places him tied for fifth on the state’s all-time winning list. You’d have to go back almost 30 years, to 1996, to find one of his teams with a losing record. Coaches around the Southeast Iowa Super Conference know that Hillcrest is not an easy out. And it’s because of the coach sitting at the end of the bench.

There is an expectation for each and every player.

And there’s a reward.

Dwight is also principal at Hillcrest Academy, a job that has its own demands.

But basketball is the thing. Did you know he used to be the IMS volleyball coach, as well?

After Hillcrest games are over and the crowds have gone home, Gingerich goes to the video to examine the plays that worked and the plays that didn’t work. The notebook is always out.

“There’s only so many minutes and hours in a day,” he said, “but I enjoy being able to watch as much as I can.”

His hoops journey is remarkable. He had four wins in his first year at IMS. The next year, six wins. And then seven. One year, IMS had no conference, leaving Gingerich and his team to face Iowa City West, Mount Pleasant and Fairfield, among others, all big schools. When Gingerich won his 700th game in December 2021, the stands at Hillcrest Union were filled.

The Ravens won 15 games this past season, beginning the year with a five-game winning streak and ending it with a four-game win streak that was halted by a loss to Maquoketa Valley, a 19-win team, in the Class 1A district tournament.

Five days after the season ended, Gingerich got the Hall of Fame call.

“It was a surprise when I got the phone call,” Dwight said. “Just kind of out of the blue and here we are. It’s a nice honor.”

“At the same time,” he added, “obviously it’s a reflection of so many people beyond me that I’ve had the opportunity to work with. All those players over many years.”

Again, it’s about the others. Dwight’s legendary way.

News columnist Paul Bowker can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @bowkerpaul

Dwight Gingerich, Hillcrest Academy, Iowa Mennonite School, Iowa High School Basketball Hall of Fame