South girls coaches reunite

PARKERSBURG -Following the timeline of girls basketball at Parkersburg South High School is as easy as counting to four.

In 40 seasons, that’s exactly how many coaches have guided the Patriots.

From its humblest beginnings under Kathy Roten in the fall of 1974 when no money was budgeted for uniforms to Scott Stephens’ three Class AAA state championships, stories were exchanged Thursday afternoon among the individuals who have established a proud tradition at the Rod Oldham Athletic Center.

On hand for a photo opportunity were Roten, Buddy Thomas, Steve Wiseman and Stephens.

“It was fun to sit and listen to the other coaches talk about how the program got to where it is now,” Stephens said.

Before Roten made a career change following the 1984 season, the Patriots’ going away present to the school’s first girls basketball coach was a state runner-up finish following their 74-59 loss to unbeaten Stonewall Jackson.

“The first year we didn’t have uniforms,” Roten said. “Coaches gave us the old boys uniforms, so we had to (hem) them up. The girls wore T-shirts underneath them.

“It was a privilege to be on the women’s advisory committee for the (West Virginia Secondary Schools Commission), and get a statewide program going. That was groundbreaking because there was a lot of resistance even by the people on board of appeals at that time.”

Roten, who returned to live in the Mid-Ohio Valley two years ago, remembers the lack of a feeder program, since elementary and junior high girls basketball programs did not exist.

“South was the ideal place to be because our principal was so supportive,” Roten said. “We started a summer league, had clinics and involved the junior high programs. And that started to build interest.”

At one point during her stay at South, she was offered a coaching position at the college level but turned it down. When she resigned as the Patriots coach, she decided to pursue her second master’s degree.

“I kind of turned my career in a different direction,” Roten said.

As far as finding a replacement for Roten, the Patriots then turned to one of its own in 1969 South graduate Buddy Thomas. His background included several county championships at Franklin Junior High. He also worked as an assistant for Larry Edwards on the boys team.

Thomas noted how Parkersburg seemed to have an edge whenever the two programs met on the hardwood. During the six seasons Thomas spent as varsity coach, it was those Big Reds who dominated with three state titles and one runner-up finish.

“Parkersburg was always our nemesis,” Thomas said. “We were the young kids on the block, and we couldn’t get over that hump mentally to get by them.

“We had some decent players who went on to play at the college level, and I am proud of them.”

Thomas has spent the past 13 years as the principal at a high school in Lakeland, Fla. In the past 10 years, his school -with an enrollment of 2,300 students – has been recognized as best athletic program in the county nine times.

“We have great kids, great parent support and great boosters,” Thomas said. “Athletics is pretty good, but we are known more for our academics.”

Steve Wiseman stepped in as the third girls basketball coach at South. Under his command in 2000, the Patriots placed runner-up in the state after losing 69-53 to Huntington.

Wiseman’s last season took place in 2004. Three years ago, he retired after 35 years of teaching. He still serves as an assistant on the South baseball team, which is coming off a state tournament appearance this past spring.

“What I remember as far as coaching girls basketball are all the kids that I had the opportunity to coach,” Wiseman said. “The thing that pleases me is the success they’ve had later in life.”

Stephens was in the midst of coaching his daughters at Mineral Wells Elementary when Wiseman brought him on board at South. By spending four years as an assistant to Wiseman, Stephens kept that bond with his daughters.

“I will always be indebted to coach Wiseman for giving me that opportunity to be up here and spend time with my three daughters as they came up through South,” Stephens said.

When Wiseman resigned, Stephens had several issues he wanted to make clear before he would accept the head coach position.

“When I first started helping coach Wiseman, I thought the girls were still second class to the boys,” Stephens said. “We rode in school buses, they rode in charter buses. We didn’t have real nice locker rooms and they did.

“When I interviewed for the job, I told the principal and the athletic director that my goal was to bring girls basketball to the same level as the boys. And I think we are close to that.”

The South girls basketball program has established itself on nearly the same playing field with the boys. This past winter, the Patriots claimed their third state title in eight years.

“This program has come from meager beginnings,” Stephens said. “Kathy had a lot of passion for the game. To start with nothing and do what they did, that was pretty impressive.

“As far as Buddy Thomas, I heard he was a little fireball as a coach and a pretty good motivator.”