Josh Wilson wasn’t supposed to win The Examiner’s Boys Coach of the Year this past season.
The Fort Osage coach was supposed to be sweating out a rebuilding year following the greatest season in school history, which included the program's first state quarterfinal berth.
Last year, with Examiner All-Area standouts D’Vante Mosby and Austin Regier leading the way, the Indians were 22-5 and won conference and district titles.
This season, the big guns were gone and Wilson proved to everyone that he wasn’t interested in just one successful season. He wanted to build something special at Fort Osage, and he accomplished that feat in dramatic fashion.
With sophomore Skylar Thompson and senior Brian Starr taking over from Mosby and Regier, the Indians finished with a surprising 19-7 record and heartfelt victory over host Kearney in the district title game for a third straight sectional berth.
What made that win so special was that Kearney had ended the Indians' football season with a controversial postseason loss, which left a bad taste in the mouths of everyone who sports red and black.
“I think we surprised everyone but ourselves,” said Thompson, the sophomore sharpshooter who was the quarterback on the football team and a member of The Examiner’s All-Area basketball squad. “I am so lucky to play for two great coaches like Coach (Ryan) Schartz (in football) and Coach Wilson.
“They know how to motivate and get the most out of their players. We have to work hard in games, because Coach Wilson works as hard as any of the players. We were proud of what we accomplished this season, and I can’t wait to see what happens the next two seasons.”
Neither can Wilson, who believes the past three seasons have laid a foundation for what could become a basketball program that mirrors Schartz’s wildly successful football program.
“Three years ago we were 14-14 when D’Vante, Austin and those guys were juniors and just learning about winning,” Wilson said. “Then we were 22-5 when they were seniors. They graduate, but the kids who came back knew what it meant to win a conference and district championship and they didn't want to take a step back.
“This year was really special because we had new guys step up their game. From 1974 to 2012, this program didn’t have a team with a winning record. Now, we’ve had back-to-back winning seasons and we’re putting up some banners in the gym that these guys can come back and show their families years from now.
“We’re starting something special, and you can tell by the excitement in the guys’ voices that they want to keep this winning tradition alive! I know I sure do.”
When this past season began, Wilson challenged his team.
“We knew what people were saying,” Wilson said emphatically, “that last year was a fluke and that we couldn’t have success like that again. So I challenged the guys and wanted them to play with a chip on their shoulders.
“And they responded to the challenge – boy, did they respond.”
And so did their coach, who says he still can’t believe he is The Examiner's Coach of the Year.
“I really don’t believe it, because there are so many great coaches in the area,” Wilson said. “I’m humbled and a little bit shocked. I want to thank my players, our coaches and everyone associated with the team, because you don’t win something like this without the help of many people.”