By Gary R. Rasberry
There's no denying that Mike Lee is one of the best coaches of the coaching-rich area.
Ever since taking over the boys basketball job back in the 1993-94 season, the Wildcats have averaged 15 wins per season and have won eight straight sectional titles.
But with Minster playing in the Midwest Athletic Conference, the trips beyond the district tournament have been few and far between while other MAC teams have made the trip to Columbus the past several years.
This season, it was the Wildcats' turn to know how it is to be a state participant, posting one of the best seasons in the history of the Minster boys program.
For that, The Daily Standard honors Lee with its 2005 Dream Team Boys Basketball Coach of the Year. Lee earns the award for the second time with the first coming in 1998 when Lee led the Wildcats to the regional finals.
Lee already established himself as one of the great Minster coaches of all time, posting 193 wins at Minster after the 21-5 season that was just completed. Next year, the Wildcats will look to get Lee his 200th career win at Minster.
Success aside, this past season, Lee had some questions to answer.
The size that had been there in the past was not as visible for Minster. Where Lee regularly had several guys at 6-5 or better controlling the inside, the team was more guard-oriented in 2004-05.
"It was the first time in the 12 years I have been here that we've had to make adjustments because of a lack of size," said Lee. "We had to look what our kids' strengths were. Following the teams in the past, they've been a patient team that wore teams down, made the extra pass. We lost a lot of our size. Typically we had a 6-6 man in the middle. Even with Justin (Spillers) coming back at 6-4/6-5, we felt he could get up and down the court."
Minster went to almost a three-guard offense. Zac Boeke and Jake Luttmer joined wingman Dane Sommer in the backcourt and Andy Beckman, who stands at 6-3 with a strong outside shot, joined Spillers in the starting five.
"We just went and looked at the kids that were coming back and looked at their strengths," said Lee. "We needed to make some changes."
Lee changed up the game, using the speed of his smaller players to create a tight press defense that worked well in stripping the ball and getting transition layups.
Opening night saw Minster play Spencerville, a team that bested the Wildcats by over 25 points the year before. Minster won by 18 points over a Bearcat team that went 17-3 in the regular season.
"It came to a head early," said Lee. "We came right out of the chute with Spencerville, who waxed us by 27. We just literally put them away early. Not that the first game of the year is any indication of how the year will go, but it gave our kids gave an eye-opening performance.
"Then as we got into the wars of league play, I still go back to that come-from-behind win at Coldwater in early January and followed up that next Friday at home with undefeated Versailles (which Minster won 60-55). I think after those games, things were looking good," added Lee.
Minster won the Coldwater sectional title after earning the top seed, then made the district finals for the seventh time in eight years, beating Fort Recovery in the finals to make the regional for the first time since 2002.
After a close win over St. Bernard, the Wildcats faced a tough Lockland team. After trailing at the half by four, Minster turned it up a notch.
"Halftime came at a good time," said Lee. "It took our kids some time to make an adjustment. We didn't make a whole lot of changes. We just took the time to regroup. Once we were able to regroup and did a better job on the glass, things really started falling our way."
The 59-47 win by the Wildcats sent them to Columbus for the first time in 40 years. Minster lost in double overtime to Lutheran East in one of the most exciting games in the past few years of the state tournament, regardless of division
For Lee, it was great for not only him, but for the assistants -- junior varsity coach Kurt Goettemoeller, freshman coach Josh Billing and junior high coaches Greg Heitkamp and Chad Wells -- who have put in a lot of time over the years.
"Like a lot of other coaches, you put in a lot of hours and long days," said Lee. "It's just a credit to the coaches. To the assistant coaches for the long hours they put in. That was the reward, having the opportunity to play with three other Division IV teams at state. It's just a very good feeling."