Cove School recently received a letter from a boys basketball fan chronicling the past four years for the program. Yes, the team has come a long way in four years. It seems fitting to simply publish that letter for you here .
The Cove boy’s basketball team recently completed their season falling short of the final eight to compete for the state 1A title in Baker. I am sure it was not the ending that they or their many fans were hoping for, but for those who have followed this group of young men and their coach, Doug Wiggins, the past four years it was the end of a long and hard-fought journey to rebuild a program that had been decimated by multiple years of upperclassmen leaving the program and the Cove school for “reasons other than athletics” and a culture of entitlement where those who did stay believed they had certain privileges that came not through hard work but rather as the result of attrition. Coach Wiggins changed that culture and created an environment where the leaders of the program were those who worked the hardest, leading by example, and creating an atmosphere where the team came first and the boys on the team played for each other until the final whistle.
The Leopards only won two games in Coach Wiggins inaugural season and the expectations that he placed on the players saw a number of upperclassmen choose to not finish the year. By the time the last whistle blew those who remained consisted of mostly underclassmen. A small but vocal group pushed hard to have Coach Wiggins removed throughout that first season but AD McGilvray held steadfast, defending the program and the direction that Coach Wiggins was taking it. The second year of rebuilding would have to wait, because of Covid. When Coach Wiggins began his third season the program was once again faced with attrition as several pivotal players moved out of the district and Cove once more had a younger team lacking in overall numbers, but for the first time in recent memory the program had an assistant coach willing to work with and not against the head coach. The small group of dissenters seemed to have moved on and support for the program, the coach, and the boys seemed to be universal. The team needed a signature win to really ignite the culture and the fan base and that came against Nixyaawii when a last-second shot propelled the Leopards past the Golden Eagles for what was believed the first time in program history. The magic continued in the district tournament and the Leopards were headed to a first-round playoff game. The community was behind them and the excitement was intensified by the booster club and Cove’s newest and most vocal fan Brett Dunten. A rooter bus followed the team to Adrian where the Cove fans nearly outnumbered the home crowd. The leopards fell short in that game but the coaching staff, the players, and the parents all seemed satisfied with the season and were excited for next year.
In year four the Cove Leopards would have three seniors led by Patrick Frisch, Terrell Davis and Caleb Wiggins who understood where the program had been and hoped to take it to the next level. They would be supported by a small junior class who had also been through many of the same struggles and with the culture of the program headed in the right direction a large sophomore and freshman class joined the team. The team was working hard both before and during the season and the atmosphere at the games was electric, with the difficulties of the past nearly forgotten by many and not even known by others. Our team may not be state champions but I am confident that no coach has done more to change the culture of a team in the past four years. We cannot thank Coach Wiggins and this graduating class of players enough. They have passed an amazing gift to those they leave behind and we hope that Coach Wiggins replacement, the parents, and players who follow understand the gift they have been given and that a great culture must be continually nurtured or it will be fleeting.
A Leopards Basketball Fan