The accomplishment on Tuesday flew under the radar as it didn’t even receive a mention from the media, which was probably fine by McPherson High girls basketball coach Chris Strathman as he isn’t one who seeks the limelight.
With the Bullpups’ 76-25 victory over El Dorado, it was discovered that Strathman became the winningest girls basketball coach in MHS history, surpassing previous coach Scott Schaefer.
In typical Strathman understated manner, he downplayed the accomplishment, instead giving praise to everyone who had a part in his 273 wins at MHS.
Schaefer had compiled a 272-43 record in 13 seasons as Bullpup coach, which included four state championships — including back-to-back-to-back from 1997-99. Strathman, now in his 14th year, is 273-53 with three state titles, of course the most recent coming last year when the Bullpups made a stunning comeback in regulation and eventually defeated mighty Bishop Miege in overtime.
Combine the two over 26-plus years and they are 545-96, probably one of the five-best records in Kansas during that period of time, with perhaps Miege, Hoxie, Little River and Central Plains (formerly Claflin) maybe the others with similar numbers.
“I was fortunate to work with coach Schaefer for 10 years as an assistant,” said Strathman, who came to McPherson after being one of the greatest players in Tabor College history. “He is definitely my coaching mentor, as I learned so much from him about how to manage a team and program. His influence on what we do could still be seen at every practice and game. We are doing a ton of new stuff as well, but a lot of our core defensive principles especially are from the foundation that he laid for our program.”
In fact, instead of focusing on himself as now the No. 1 coach in terms of wins, he chose to talk more about how consistent the program has been with the two of them as leaders.
“Believe me, I am way more proud of what we have accomplished in our 27 combined seasons than an individual win total that happened to surpass his 13-year number,” Strathman said. “He took over a mediocre program and took it to unprecedented heights. My personal goal when I was hired, and we talked about this as my goal in my interview in the Spring of 2005, was to try to maintain the standard of excellence that was established and that is still my goal every year.”
The Bullpups have followed up on last year’s state championship with a 14-1 record going into tonight’s game at Winfield, the only loss coming to undefeated and No. 1-ranked Derby, maybe the best team in all the land.
Strathman, though, has developed his own style. He’s more low-key than Schaefer, but the success has remained the same.
“We go about some things differently, but both of us place a very high priority on player and relationship development, and also stressing the importance of our freshmen and JV team success as they are our future,” Strathman said. “I appreciated that as his assistant and JV coach when I worked with him, and we have continued that approach and I think it has paid great dividends.”
Strathman has had the same assistants for quite some time and they work seamlessly together, including JV coach Mike Reith, and assistants Shelly Prescott and Tim Ellet. Reith took over the first six games of this season when Strathman was dealing with health issues and led the team to a 5-1 record, while his JV team has won an astonishing 89 games in a row.
The Bullpups, under Strathman and Schaefer, have made it to state an amazing 23 times in 26 years, with 16 Final Fours. If all goes according to plan this year, the Bullpups hope to be playing at Emporia in March, the site of the Class 5A Tournament as MHS spent the last 7 years in Class 4A.