Lakewood's Wright reaches coaching milestone

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Tue. December 14, 2010 | Bob Putnam | Email

ST. PETERSBURG — The buzzer sounded, an achievement Lakewood boys basketball coach Dan Wright dubbed his “so-called record” was secured and the ball rolled across the court until it came to a stop at the far end.

An instant after the Spartans’ 73-58 victory Tuesday over Dixie Hollins increased Wright’s career win total to 675 — one more than that of his high school coach and mentor, former Gibbs legend Freddie Dyles — there wasn’t much fanfare to mark the feat.

The game was played on the road in front of a handful of fans. There was no announcement acknowledging that Wright had become Pinellas County’s all-time leader in wins among boys basketball coaches. There were no cameras.

Wright finished the night by clapping his hands before he received a few light pats on the back and was greeted by well-wishers.

“This is nice, but I’m somewhat glad this is all over with,” Wright said. “I’m just a guy that’s more into the immediate cause than looking into the past.

“If the Lord Jesus was able to speak for me, he’d say that the record never entered my mind before or during the game.”

An achievement even Wright once thought was unreachable — he considered retiring two years ago until he was persuaded to stay by some of his players — was followed by an understated presentation.

“It feels pretty good to get this win for Coach,” guard Mike Singleton said. “We knew he could do it, but Coach Wright is humble. He didn’t really bring it up.”

Wright, in his 35th and final season, tried to downplay the magnitude of the event, but a sense of history could be felt the past week at the school. Administrators dedicated the Lakewood gymnasium to Wright during a ceremony on Dec. 8. The gym is now called The Wright House, The Dan Wright Gymnasium.

That same night Wright had a chance to break the record when he returned to Gibbs, his alma mater, but the Spartans lost. Lakewood played on Friday against Northeast, but Wright skipped the game so he could watch his son graduate from Florida State University.

That pushed the record-setting game to Tuesday. Lakewood (3-1) led from the start, though the Rebels kept it a 10-point game until late in the fourth quarter.

“The thing I’m more worried about is we’re not playing to the standard that we’re used to,” Wright said. “We have some work to do. We’re struggling with a different type of animal.”

In the past week, Wright has received numerous phone calls and e-mails.

“I’m sure I’ll receive more at school after this,” he said. “But this is more for the guys in the program, from the ones who got the first win to the one tonight.”

As Wright walked out of the gym, he was flanked by two assistants, Dwight Lattimore and Anthony Lawrence, former players who were partly responsible for helping Wright get to this point.

“It’s been a pleasure to be around the past year as part of the coaching staff,” said Lawrence, who played for the Spartans from 1984-88 and came on last year as an assistant and teacher. “He’s not just a coach, he’s a co-worker and friend. I’m just trying to soak up as much as I can in his last year as coach.

“And as great of a coach as Dan is, he’s an even better man.”

Wright did not plan to do much celebrating to mark the occasion.

“I’m sure my wife might say something, but that’s about it,” Wright said.

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