Dan Hegemier has come a long way since his first season as a varsity
boys basketball coach. Hegemier currently owns more state titles than
he had wins that first year.
“My first job was the junior varsity job at Waynesfield-Goshen,”
Hegemier said. “I led the reserves for a couple years and then took
over the varsity. That first year, we went 1-18.”
Dan Hegemier has come a long way since his first season as a varsity boys basketball coach. Hegemier currently owns more state titles than he had wins that first year.
“My first job was the junior varsity job at Waynesfield-Goshen,” Hegemier said. “I led the reserves for a couple years and then took over the varsity. That first year, we went 1-18.”
This season, Hegemier didn’t lose a game as his New Knoxville squad finished 27-0 with a convincing win over Worthington Christian in the Division IV state championship at Ohio State’s Value City Arena on March 15. The Rangers were the state’s only undefeated boys team and had an average margin of victory of 27 points per game.
The title was New Knoxville’s first in any sport and marked the program’s first trip to the state tournament since a runner-up finish 61 years ago in 1947.
As a result, Hegemier earns the nod as the Ohio High Magazine/Huntington Bank Ohio Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.
Hegemier, a 1970 New Knoxville grad, knows the significance of state championships in rural Ohio.
“When I grew up, people talked a lot about the 1947 team,” Hegemier said. “Now they can talk about another.”
Hegemier’s teams are usually hard to forget. The state title may have been New Knoxville’s first, but it was Hegemier’s third.
A seasoned coach with a career record of 444-169 after stops at Waynesfield, Spencerville, Fort Loramie and New Knoxville, Hegemier made a name for himself at Fort Loramie, where he still serves as the guidance counselor. Hegemier led the Redskins to state titles in 1987 (Class A) and 1993 (D-IV). Fort Loramie also made the state tournament in 1988.
After Waynesfield, Hegemier spent four seasons at Spencerville and then came to Fort Loramie before the 1984-85 season. Over the next 16 years, he compiled 298 victories and turned the Redskins into one of the state’s top small school programs. Loramie was fueled by former Ohio State player Tom Brandewie during their tournament runs in the 1980s.
Eventually, Hegemier moved on. Citing that it was “time to do something different,” the coach found that outlet at Wright State University’s Lake Campus in Celina.
Hegemier led the Lakers program for four years, going 71-50.
“It was definitely different and I worked with a lot of great people and kids,” Hegemier said. “But the thing that I really missed was the high school tournament. That’s one reason why I got back into it.”
Another was timing. Although Hegemier said he never gave coaching New Knoxville much thought, his brother had. The girls coach at New Knoxville, Tim Hegemier, Dan’s younger brother by two years, called his older sibling to inform him of the boys opening in 2004.
Tim Hegemier, himself, is a coach of note, having led the Rangers girls team to the state final last season.
“(Tim) said the job opened up at New Knoxville and that I had to take it,” Hegemier said. “So that’s where I’m at.”
Where New Knoxville is at now is a better place.
Saying the hardest part of the process was teaching the kids how to win, Hegemier and the Rangers went 10-12 his first year (2004-05).
“We’d have everybody beat for three quarters and we could not finish games,” Hegemier said. “We had to learn how to compete.”
The Rangers learned quickly. After a 17-5 campaign in 2005-06, New Knoxville went 25-1 last season, losing in the regional finals. This year there was no bump in the road.
New Knoxville won only one game by less than double-digits and defended its Midwest Athletic Conference championship. The Rangers are the smallest school in the MAC and will graduate 34 students in June.
“We have a bunch of kids that all know how to play,” Hegemier said. “They all have high skill, they are athletic and they can run and catch the ball. They can shoot and put the ball on the floor when they have to and they are very unselfish. They are always looking for the next pass and the easy shot. None of our kids have to force a shot.”
Although Hegemier said he doesn’t “preach” unselfishness, his kids get it and everything else he teaches. All five New Knoxville starters averaged double-figures.
“My basic philosophy is to get the ball inside,” Hegemier said. “Once it goes inside then you figure out what to do with it, but get it inside first.
“And I don’t care who shoots it. If you’re going to shoot though, you better make some. If you’re going to shoot and not make any, don’t shoot. About three-quarters of the way through the season our top six guys had taken about the same amount of shots according to the stats. They weren’t off by any more than 10 to 15. That’s when you know you have something special. There’s no preaching about it. It’s just hit the open man and move, move, move.”
Moving on isn’t something Hegemier sees himself doing in the near future and more than likely this is the last stop on his coaching carousel.
New Knoxville faithful couldn’t be more content. And actually, neither could the coach.
“You can’t rank the state titles, because all the kids and all the titles are very, very special,” Hegemier said. “But this (latest) one is special to me personally because it’s the first state title at New Knoxville.
“We brought one back to the hometown.”