Jerry Scheve was cut from his high school basketball team his junior year.
As things turned out, it was a life-changing move for Scheve.
“The grade school I coached at needed a sixth grade coach,” he said. “That’s where I started. Unfortunately they (the players) were all fifth graders. So we took our lumps, but I knew then I would always coach because I loved it.”
Scheve, now 71 years old, recently retired from Wilmington College as women’s basketball head coach and associated professor in the accounting department, a position be has held since 1977. He became head basketball coach in 1990.
Scheve did not coach or teach at the college this past season. His doctors recommended he take the year off because of a heart condition and potential complications with Covid-19.
During his 30 seasons as head coach the Quakers, Scheve and his teams won 518 games, making his tenure one of the winningest in NCAA Division III college basketball history.
“You always remember the losses (286) more than the wins, so I have a couple hundred regrets,” said Scheve, master of deadpan humor.
Scheve steered Wilmington to a Division III national championship in 2004. Led by Tara Rausch, the women’s team went on a late-season win streak and defeated unbeaten Bowdoin in the title game in Virginia Beach, Va. 54-51.
Scheve called the national championship “a proud moment,” but said there are many moments he was proud of at WC.
“My list could go on forever and I hesitate to single any out,” he added.
However, he said, “Standing next to (East Clinton graduate) Megan Woodruff as Robin Roberts presented her the National Student Athlete of the Year Award was a very proud moment as well.”
Scheve’s title at Wilmington wasn’t his only taste of national success. He coached a 14-year-old Nuckols and Associates baseball team to the National Baseball Congress World Series Championship tournament in 1988. And even though he coached plenty of youth soccer and baseball in his younger days, Scheve always has been devoted to basketball.
Taking over the program at Wilmington College in 1990 might not have been viewed as life-long position. The Quakers won 129 games in the previous 17 seasons before Scheve.
“You have to have a passion for what you are doing,” said Scheve, a graduate of St. Xavier High School. “You have to recruit and keep good players who are good people. You have to have good assistant coaches. I think I always tried to do things the right way and treat people the right way. And when you do that, you tend to get the best out of people.”
Scheve was good at getting the best out of his teams. At least to those on the outside looking in. Scheve isn’t one to accept praise when his team has done well. That he deflects to his players more accolades than he absorbs is simply part of his coaching style.
“There were definitely many times I thought I could have done a better job,” he said. “I regretted any time a girl quit the team, wondering what else I could have done.”
Be assured, though, Wilmington College women’s basketball wouldn’t be anything without Scheve, the assistant coaches he selected and the players he recruited and coached.
But don’t tell him that.
”I really feel we could have accomplished a lot more here than we did,” he said. “I thought we got held out of some NCAA tournaments that we should have qualified for. Our first year in the NCAA (1991-92) was arguably as good as any team we ever had, but we weren’t extended a bid, and never got a chance to show how good we were. Our first year in the HCAC (Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference), we won our conference and earned a bid, and our conference commissioner didn’t file the necessary paperwork to get us in, so we again didn’t get to show how good we were.”
And while those losses, though not always on the court, will stick with Scheve, so will the memories of the people he’s connected with over the years.
”Just being able to coach basketball, and being associated with great young ladies is the biggest highlight,” he said. “I enjoyed every year, and some of my favorite teams were teams that were not very successful from a win-loss standpoint.”
At some point, Scheve said, he’d like to create more memories.
“I will continue to coach in some capacity,” Scheve said.
And success will, undoubtedly, follow.