By BOB FREDETTE
BURLINGTON — Mike Wood isn’t even on the Vermont Basketball Coaches Association’s list of coaches with 100 or more victories.
The VBCA is going to have to fix that next Saturday when it honors coaches for milestone wins at its annual all-star day in Windsor.
Not only does Wood qualify, but he has exactly 200 wins at Rutland High School following Saturday’s 45-39 victory over Mount Mansfield in the D-I state finals at Patrick Gym.
What a time and place for a milestone.
Two hundred wins, 40 straight victories, and two straight titles for the first time in Rutland history.
“Win number 200 is the back-to-backer? Who can write that? You can’t write that any better,” Wood said while players and fans were still celebrating the victory on Tom Brennan Court.
Wood’s ascension to the 200-win plateau in only 11 years at Rutland is like a moon launch, with an average of more than 18 per year.
“That speaks to him as a coach,” said senior guard Noah Tyson. “He’s a phenomenal coach. He puts guys in the right spots and knows how to get it done. I’ve loved playing for him.”
His success is no secret statewide. In 11 seasons the Raiders have been to the Final Four eight times and, of course, Wood was the man at the controls last year when Rutland won its first championship in 50 years.
Wood’s poorest years have yielded 14 victories, while his Raiders have accumulated 18 or more wins eight times.
His numbers at Rutland:
2017-18 – 23-0
2016 17 – 22-2
2015-16 – 19-4
2014-15 – 19-4
2013-14 – 14-8
2012-13 – 18-5
2011-12 – 18-5
2010-11 – 20-3
2009-10 – 15-6
2008-09 – 18-5
2007-08 – 14-6
Total 200-48 – .806
“I guess I’m just grateful for coach Norman (Rutland athletic director Mike Norman) and Rutland High School for giving me the opportunity to coach here,” said Wood, who came over from his head coaching job at Mount St. Joseph.
“And I’m thankful for the guys in our program. I’ve been blessed with unbelievable kids for 11 years, and that’s probably what makes me most proud: the relationships and what the kids go on and do in life. They’re unbelievable kids.”
Another reason for the Raiders’ success under Wood is their nonleague schedule. They played 11 Northern Vermont Athletic Conference games this year; most of them were in the Metro division, the toughest in the state, with teams like Rice, Burlington and South Burlington. So, once tournament time comes around, the Raiders are battle tested and have removed the northern mystique.
“You saw a grinder here tonight,” he said. “We preach defense every day, but I think it’s more about toughness; we talk about toughness, whether it’s mental or physical toughness, come out and compete every day and give us your best. You saw guys who didn’t get much of an opportunity to play in big games last year. But they showed their mettle and I’m proud of that. That’s a function of the guys they played against (in practice) but it’s a program, and now that we’re on top I think guys want to stay on top.”
Generations of Rutland followers rejoiced last year when the drought ended, and in the midst of that celebration, Wood talked about keeping it going.
“We have kids coming back who really want to get better,” he said last year after Rutland’s 17th straight win.
That group included four players who became starters this year: junior Jamison Evans and seniors Keegan Bliss, Jack Morgan and Jared Nelson.
And did they ever pick it up, helping author a 23-0 season.
What about next year’s team? Wood was asked on Saturday.
“My expectation is ‘Next man up,’” he said. “We’ve got some good guys coming back next year. Hopefully they can carve out their own niche and write their own story.”
Until then, the VBCA is the next “man” up.
Open the door for Mike Wood.
Follow Bob on Twitter: @Bob_Fredette