By MICHAEL BURWELL
COLUMBUS — Dave Kleman and his Ottoville squad achieved milestone after milestone this season.
Although they came up just short on Saturday of achieving their most-desired milestone, the school’s first state title in girls basketball, the Big Green had a memorable year.
Kleman joined a select group of coaches to reach 500 career wins. Senior guard/forward/center Bridget Landin eclipsed the 1,000-point mark. And for the second time in seven trips to the state tournament, Ottoville finished as state runner-up.
What will Kleman remember most about this season?
“Just spending time with the girls,” Kleman said after the Big Green’s 63-48 loss to Minster in the Division IV state championship at Value City Arena in Columbus. “The 500 wins are nice, being around the girls is the most important. We really have a bond and a couple of our seniors from last year were down there crying their eyes out with these guys on the bench after the game, and that’s what it’s all about.
“Like Jerry (Snodgrass) and Dr. (Dan) Ross (said after the game), it’s about the relationships you form with the kids and with each other. When you’re at a wedding five years from now and you see these guys, they all come up and say ‘hey coach, how ya doing, give me a hug’ or I’ll do the same thing. And I told them we’ve got to be invited to their weddings or we’re crashing. We’re going to be dancing at their weddings and stuff, but that’s what it is in the community.”
Kleman became one of 20 coaches in OHSAA girls basketball history to reach the 500-win milestone when Ottoville throttled Delphos St. John’s 60-20 on Feb. 10.
The Big Green have gone 507-123 in Kleman’s 26 seasons as coach, including 27-3 this year in which Ottoville tied a school-record for most wins in a season (27-1 in 2013).
No losing season, 14 times having 20 wins or more in a season and a dozen Putnam County League titles during his tenure.
Not bad for someone who in his younger years wasn’t so sure about being a girls basketball coach.
“It’s more the journey than the ending, that’s what it’s really about. As you get older, as an older coach, you understand that and especially with girls,” Kleman said.
“When I was younger, you’d have told me I was coaching girls, you’re crazy.
“And then, God has a sense of humor, he gave me three daughters, no sons, so then I started coaching girls and I found that the girls were very appreciative and I was appreciative of coaching them and it softened me up quite a bit.”
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By MICHAEL BURWELL