McCallie's Wadley Gets As Much Joy From Teaching As He Does Coaching

Veteran Coach's Hardwood Career Passed 600-Win Plateau Last Weekend

Monday, January 20, 2014 - by Larry Fleming
McCallie basketball coach oversees the Blue Tornado program and has a 195-47 record in a highly successful 31-year career. Wadley won his 600th and 601st games last weekend and has a 128-79 mark at McCallie.
McCallie basketball coach oversees the Blue Tornado program and has a 195-47 record in a highly successful 31-year career. Wadley won his 600th and 601st games last weekend and has a 128-79 mark at McCallie.
- photo by Larry Fleming/Chattanoogan.com

Dan Wadley is a highly successful high school basketball coach at McCallie.

He’s earned that reputation.

Wadley is also an excellent teacher, a fact that might escape people who don’t really know the 58-year-old, who left the plains of Rockford, Ill, to attend Tennessee Temple University and then start his illustrious coaching career at Tennessee Temple Academy in 1983.

As a career professional, Wadley is a two-way star.

He’s not shy, however, about telling anyone willing to listen that his first calling is in the classroom.

“I hope (McCallie) agrees with me,” Wadley said after Monday’s light practice. “I’m a teacher/coach, not a coach/teacher. I really love the classroom and it would be hard to give that up.

“I would give up coaching before I gave up the classroom.”

But, basketball takes center stage today.

The Blue Tornado defeated Brentwood Academy, 63-55, in Nashville on Friday for Wadley’s 600th career win and followed that up with a 53-52 victory over bitter rival Baylor for No. 601 thefollowing night.

One has to backtrack three decades to learn that Wadley’s path to a coaching career was always intertwined with teaching.

Wadley arrived at TTU in 1973 and graduated four years later. While still in the university’s seminary, school officials asked if he would like to coach the high school baseball team.

“I said, ‘Yeah, I’d like to coach baseball,’ ” the young Wadley said. “I was married and my wife worked at Temple.”

Ok, done deal, right?

Not exactly.

“They said I’d have to teach, too,” Wadley recalled. “I didn’t know anything about teaching, but I learned real quick.”

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 The Wadley Career

School                       Team               Years                  Record

Tenn. Temple               Girls                 1983-99                278-185

Tenn. Temple               Boys                1999-2006            195-47

McCallie                       Boys               2006-Current        128-79

31-Year Total                          601-311 

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Wadley taught five years before getting another coaching offer, this one as the Temple Academy junior high coach. Then he spent two years with the junior varsity team and assumed the varsity girls head coaching position for the 1983-84 school year.

Wadley was 14-16 in that first season.

Over the next five seasons, Wadley guided the Lady Crusaders to five consecutive championships in the Tennessee Association of Christian Schools – there were around 100 member schools in those days – and a combined 135-19 record, an overall 80.9 winning percentage.

Wadley was still at TTA in 1989 when the school joined the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association. The sledding was a little tougher then and the Temple girls went 129-150 (46 percent) over the 10 years Wadley coached the team. His best single-season mark was 23-8 in 1996-97.

In his final seven season at TTA, Wadley coached the boys team and posted three seasons of 30-plus wins, capturing state titles in 2002 and 2003 – the Crusaders went 69-5 in those two years.

Ironically, two of the five losses were to McCallie, his future employer.

He also coached two of his three sons – Ryan and Sean – at Temple and later coached Seth at McCallie.

Wadley was 195-47 (80.6 percent) with the TTA boys team.

When Ken Henry stepped down as McCallie’s varsity coach, Blue Tornado officials had to travel less than a mile to find his replacement. They wanted Wadley and got him.

McCallie is only the second stop on Wadley’s career journey. It’s likely to be his last. Wadley routinely self-evaluates himself and his program after each season – and yearns to spend more time with his three grandchildren (two live on the McCallie campus and one resides in Columbia, S.C.). And basketball consumes so much of his time it’s hard to get back to Illinois to visit his parents over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

However, he’s made no decision on when to become a one-job guy.

“There is more to life than basketball,” Wadley said. “I do think about what’s best for me and the school. I still have the drive. I still love coaching. I love teaching, but I’m missing that time with my grandchildren.”

With teaching and coaching duties, Wadley knows he can make life-sized impacts on many more students. Over the years he’s taught Bible, physical education, health economics, accounting – his degree is in business accounting, but teaches only Bible at McCallie.

Wadley, who turns 59 on Feb. 12, was asked what drives him these days.

“It’s the kids,” he said. “Every generation is different and I’ve coached in the 1980s, 90s, and 2000s and it’s about having an impact on kids’ lives and them knowing we care. It’s not about wins and losses; it’s character and developing the way that will make them successful in life.

“I think that keeps me going. But when I lose that, it’s probably time to step down. I’ll know. It could be this year, I don’t know. I've always been told that it's better to retire two years early than two months late.”

With age comes wisdom.

“Sometimes I feel older than 58,” he said. “I sometimes think it would be easy to let the younger generation do the job. I’m more of a mentor now to our coaching staff.”

That staff consists of head assistant Roc Evans, Ryan Wadley and Joe Coffman.

It has become easier over the years to delegate more responsibility to those young guns.

Evans was at McCallie when Wadley arrived.

“I wasn’t familiar with Dan’s style of play when he got here,” said Evans, a 41-year-old former McCallie football and basketball player who is in his 17th year coaching at the private school. “His comfort level of delegating responsibilities in practice preparation and game management had to be earned. Now, he’s done that and that frees him up to concentrate on the bigger picture – the program.”

Evans, who played football at Carson-Newman College, said Wadley used to have his hand totally into all aspects of coaching basketball. Nowadays, Wadley is more about teaching his players the IQ of the sport, but he steadfastly still has a firm grip on the defensive aspect of Blue Tornado hoops.

“He likes tough, hard-nosed defense,” Evans said. “That’s his baby.”

Still, in the overall scheme of things Wadley’s No. 1 objective remains his student/athletes. That won’t change.

“I don’t like change,” Wadley said. “I’ve only coached at two schools in 31 years. We practiced zone defense today (Monday), but I’m a man-to-man coach. It’s hard for me to get into the zone.

“Lord willing, if the school lets me stay, I might stick around to 68 or 70 – as a teacher, not a coach. That’s just how much I enjoy teaching.”

Junior C.J. Fritz, who hit the game-winning shot to beat Baylor with just over five seconds left in overtime, has seen both sides of Wadley’s professional career.

Fritz, who started at McCallie in the seventh grade, was in Wadley’s Bible class his sophomore year and was first introduced to his future coach as a fifth-grader attending a McCallie basketball camp.

“Ever since I’ve been at McCallie I’ve had a great relationship with coach Wadley,” Fritz said. “It has been great to play for him. He’s a great coach, mentor and leader for McCallie basketball. Away from basketball, he’s a fun guy to be around.

“He’s made me a better person.”

Fritz said Wadley is “laid back, funny at times” and doesn’t conduct his classes with quite the same intensity as he does practices and games.

“He’s definitely at his toughest when he’s around basketball,” Fritz said. “He’ll get on me about a shot I took and if you mess up he’ll let you know. If you do good, he’ll let you know that too.

“He always says if you give me a reason to play you, and a reason to keep you out there, then you’ll play. I remember that from the first time he said it. It’s about earning your way.”

That’s the key lesson Wadley is teaching his students and players.

Earn your way.

That's what Wadley has done for more than 30 years to win 601 games.

"I'm blessed to have 600 wins," he said, "but that's not because I played a bunch of patsies. We played a tough schedule year after year,"

(E-mail Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com)

 


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