TOPEKA -- The experience-oozing Westview Warriors boasted a trio of talented third-year starters and a second-year starter, all of them seniors, during the boys high school basketball season just completed.
Next season's Warriors, though, will likely have just one starter back, one who averaged 5.1 points, and a top reserve who averaged just 2.7.
With that in mind, if Westview can duplicate the area-best 22-3 mark it stormed to this season, Rob Yoder will be virtually guaranteed to repeat as Elkhart Truth Area Coach of the Year.
"That's it, that's all we have to do?" Yoder said Friday with a chuckle. "Hey, we're going to try."
This much is for sure, the unflinching, steely-chinned Yoder, named today as 2011 Coach of the Year, won't be daunted no matter how tall the task ahead appears.
"While we are sorry to see one of the better classes this program's had graduate, there is always a thrill, an excitement to see younger guys get their chance, their turn," Yoder said Friday. "I hope we've established a situation where we can always hope to have good players coming. I feel like we've got some pretty good players who have waited their turn."
In balloting among the IHSAA's 14 area head coaches and six Truth sports staffers, Yoder nipped Concord's Steve Austin nine votes to seven to capture Coach of the Year honors for the second time in the last four seasons.
"I feel real honored since I know that the coaches vote on that," Yoder said, "but I also feel it has more to do with how hard our players worked and how good our assistants are. It's very much a team award."
As a team, the Warriors racked up a perfect Northeast Corner Conference round-robin season, an NECC Tournament title and the Class 2A Westview Sectional crown.
For Yoder, it was his fourth sectional title in the last six years to go with a pair of regional championships. Over the last five years, he's guided the Warriors to a 95-27 record, 15th-best mark in the state. His six straight winning seasons easily leads area teams.
Yoder, a 1988 Westview graduate, will enter his ninth year as head coach at his alma mater with no foreseeable plans of stepping down.
"I look at it one year at a time, but that's how I've always approached it," Yoder said. "I do know I'm going to do it next year."
For Yoder, a former Warrior assistant, re-upping annually has been an easy choice so far.
"The competition is the one thing I've really liked all along, that I would guess maybe all coaches like," Yoder said. "And I like that you get a chance to help kids develop, that you're helping them with something that they want to be doing."
And that's not all.
"Probably the biggest reward is when you see a kid succeed," Yoder said. "That can be judged a lot of different ways, and I know most of the time in our case it's judged by whether you win that sectional, but kids can succeed in a number of ways. Probably nobody, except parents to a certain extent, understands the time and effort the kids put into basketball, so when they succeed, that's the real joy in coaching."
Coach of the Year
2011 Voting Leaders
(20 ballots cast; 14 coaches, 6 staffers)
Rob Yoder, Westview 9
Steve Austin, Concord 7
Aaron Wolfe, NorthWood 2
2011: Rob Yoder (Westview)
2010: Phil Mishler (Wawasee)
2009: Jason Ridge (Northridge)
2008: Rob Yoder (Westview)
2007: Dan Gunn (NorthWood)
2006: Steve Johnson (Memorial)
2005: Ryan Culp (Concord)
2004: Randy DeShone (Jimtown)
2003: Mike Drews (Central) and Ryan Culp (Concord)
2002: Steve Johnson (Memorial) and Randy DeShone (Jimtown)
Most Outright Wins
2: Jim Hahn, Mike Sorrell, Steve Austin, Dean Foster, Steve Johnson, Rob Yoder.