TOPEKA — The players change every few years, the assistants have all changed since he started, but the one constant in Westview High School boys basketball for more than a decade has been head coach Rob Yoder.
Over the last nine of those years, Yoder has steered the Warriors to six sectional titles and three regional crowns. He is sixth in the state in wins and eighth in winning percentage at one school over that time.
Further, in a belt known for its wealth of skilled skippers, he's the only individual over the last 10 years to be named twice (2008 and 2011) as Elkhart Truth Area Coach of the Year, an award in which head coaches annually constitute the majority of the voters.
ROB YODER AT A GLANCE
A 1988 Westview graduate who also played at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, Yoder is in his 11th year as head coach at Westview. He is 188-80, including 172-51 over the last nine years with six sectional and three regional titles. Prior to becoming head coach, he was Troy Neely's assistant for seven years, including on Westview's 1999 and 2000 2A state title teams. Rob and wife Cori have a son, sixth-grader Charlie, and a daughter, fourth-grader Carigan.
On Saturday, March 22, Yoder will take a third stab at his first career semistate crown when Westview (22-4) faces Cass (22-2) in the 2A northern championship game at Huntington North. Tip-off is at 4 p.m.
"The thing about him is you're just not gonna outwork him as a head coach," varsity assistant Rusty Yoder said this week of his cousin. "I don't know of any coach in high school that I've ever seen put as much time, energy and thought into what he does. He's always going to get the most out of his players. I don't think parents and players always understand how fortunate they are to have a coach like him."
As he's done before on the topic of his own success, Rob Yoder simply fidgets and modestly defers to having more time at his disposal than perhaps some of his peers. He is, after all, his own boss in his full-time profession — overseeing rental properties — while virtually all those other head coaches are teaching.
"I'm not smart enough like those other guys to do it an hour here and an hour there," said Yoder, who comes in around noon each day during the season to break down film and handle other coaching-related duties. "It would be hard to do what I do after teaching all day, so hats off to those that are doing it."
Rusty Yoder, though, says it's far from just about having time.
"He's a player's coach," Rusty said of Rob. "If you work for him, he'll do anything for you. The only thing that might be hard for him, just because I know how he is outside of basketball, is he'd rather just do things himself. Instead of telling somebody else it's not working, he fixes it himself, but in basketball, you can't really do that. I think he'd rather go out there himself and guard the other team's best player, but instead, he's gotta tell somebody else to stop the player."
"Play as hard as you can and be a great teammate," Rob Yoder said of what his expectations are as a head coach. "If you do those two things, we'll take care of the rest and help you with the rest. And if you can't do that, you can't be a Westview basketball player."
Contrary to the controlled sideline demeanor that a dapper Rob Yoder typically displays at games, Rusty says his cousin can get a little worked up in practices.
"He lets it go sometimes, but other times I think he needs to get it out more," Rusty said. "As long as players play hard, though, he doesn't have a problem. We don't yell at players for missing shots they're supposed to take. Now, if they're taking shots they're not supposed to take, then that's another story."
"It's not any one coach that does it," Rob Yoder said of of the notion of being singled out. "It's our group that's all committed to working as hard as we can to help the kids succeed. That's our job."
While three of the four assistants — Ross Hales, Ryan Yoder (no relation to Rob and Rusty) and Randy Miller — have each come on board in just the last few years, and while Rusty's the most tenured assistant at eight years, it's nevertheless a group with much background to share.
Hales and Rusty Yoder were high school superstars at Elkhart Memorial and Westview, respectively. Collegiately, they were exposed to renowned coaches like Bob Knight and Bill Musselman, respectively.
Further, Hales and Ryan Yoder have both been high school head coaches, while Rusty Yoder, Ryan Yoder and Miller, like Rob Yoder, all bring the experience of having played for Westview. Each of the Yoders was a standout, while Miller was a backup for the Warriors' 1999 2A state title team.
"We kind of understand the expectations and kind of know how the kids here are brought up," Rob Yoder said of the Westview ties.
"And Ross," Yoder added with a laugh, "we just had to get him in here so we'd have somebody in our program bigger than a point guard."
Hales' second-to-last high school game was an Elkhart Regional championship win over Westview in 1989.
"We don't hold that against him," Rob Yoder said. "We did for 20 years, but now we're all grown up, so we let him on our coaching staff."