Throughout last week, Don Dziagwa received all kinds of congratulatory text messages after guiding Tampa Catholic’s boys basketball program to its fourth straight Class 5A state semifinal appearance.
Two of those texts were from Hillsborough’s Chris Ward and Seffner Christian’s Sam Moorer, who also led their teams to the semifinals in their respective classifications.
The connection between the three coaches, the only ones from Hillsborough County to make the final four this season, goes back years.
Before becoming a fixture with the Crusaders, Dziagwa coached at Leto. In 1990, he took a team of all-star players from the area and the state to play in Russia as representatives of the United States.
One of the players Dziagwa coached was Ward, who starred at Bradenton Southeast.
“It was a pretty amazing experience,” Ward said. “This was when everything came crumbling down. This was Cold War Russia. We played in Kiev. We were in Moscow. After, I continued to stay in contact with Don.”
Their ties go beyond that. Dziagwa’s son, Thomas (Tampa Catholic/Oklahoma State), and Ward’s son, Tyson (Tampa Prep/North Dakota State), played on the same AAU team before going on to star in high school and become solid starters in college.
As for Moorer, he played on an AAU team coached by Dziagwa as a youngster.
“We’re still pretty close,” Moorer said. “We message each other all the time. It’s great that we’re at the state tournament at the same time.”
Dziagwa, now in his 28th season with the Crusaders, said there is a reason he has forged so many relationships among players and coaches.
“I’ve just been around a while,” he said.