A lot of bus rides: Liedtke discusses 600th win
BEVERLY — Dan Liedtke shared an anecdote after the Fort Frye High girls’ basketball team helped the longtime Cadet boss notch his 600th career coaching win last Thursday night.
“Well, you know, one guy called me up, and said, ‘Coach, 600 wins, that’s a lot of bus rides.’ And, I said, ‘You’re right,'” said Liedtke, whose Cadets (7-1) downed visiting Hannibal River High, 40-33, for the milestone triumph.
A lot of bus rides, indeed — and that’s just as a head boys’ and girls’ coach.
Before that, Liedtke starred on the hardwood at New Philadelphia High, where he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame last winter.
Liedtke then played briefly at the University of Rio Grande before injuring his back in an automobile accident in Marietta.
Currently, two of Liedtke’s daughters — Megan and Makayla — who played for him at Fort, are competing at Rio.
Anyways, upon college graduation, Liedtke sought a teaching and coaching position somewhere. Before visiting Fort Frye, he was interviewed at Waterford High, the Cadets’ arch-rival just across the Muskingum River.
Just think, the WHS Wildcats could’ve had Liedtke for the asking. But he wasn’t hired.
So, Liedtke applied for a job at the Fort — and got it as a learning disabilities teacher at Lower Salem Elementary.
“Thirty-five years ago, when I came to this town, I didn’t know where Beverly was,” recalled Liedtke. “But I just felt like this would be a great place to get a good start. The program needed a lot of help back then.”
During Liedtke’s first couple of years in the Fort Frye School District, he coached freshman basketball and compiled an 18-12 record.
In 1986, he made his debut as the varsity head coach, and guided the Cadet boys’ to a 14-9 mark and the first of a dozen sectional titles. Since then, the scarlet red, dover white and royal blue cagers have claimed 17 Pioneer Valley Conference (PVC) crowns, six Ohio Valley Athletic Conference (OVAC) championships, three district and one regional titles.
In 1999, Fort Frye advanced to the state Final Four in Columbus.
“Coach Liedtke is a great motivator,” said Dan Richards after Liedtke achieved his 300th milestone win.
Richards was on that 1999 Cadet team and also played hoops at Marietta College.
“He gets you ready to play, and practices are pretty intense but fun,” Richards said. “He’s really low profile and never wants any recognition for himself.”
Never was that more evident than when he got his 200th win and was honored with a banner commemorating the milestone BEFORE a tip-off.
“A few years ago when Dan got his 200th win, we did this before a game, and he wasn’t very happy, because he didn’t want to take away from the kids,” recalled FFHS assistant boys coach John Bostic. “It was too much of a distraction.”
After Liedtke’s win No. 300, a 51-37 Fort triumph over Waterford, he got the banner AFTER a game.
In 2009, the ever-energetic and ambitious Liedtke decided that he wanted to coach both boys’ and girls’ basketball at Fort Frye. After all, his three daughters were coming of age and talented basketball players in their own right.
“The administration realizes this is a rare thing,” said Liedtke at the time. “But when I laid my plan out and showed them how things would work, I think they felt that it’s worth a try and to see how it goes.”
Long story short, it went well, thanks to his boys’ assistants at the time — Terry Huck, Troy Fogle, Matt Anderson, and Bostic. On the girls’ side, there were Cathy Borich, Pat Lang, and Huck, also doing double duty. (Huck passed away in 2015.)
“To make this happen, the staff is going to be very important,” Liedtke said. “I wouldn’t consider thinking about this if it weren’t for them.”
It should be noted during that same year (2009), Liedtke was also under consideration for the Parkersburg High (W.Va.) boys’ basketball head coaching position.
The PHS Big Reds, like Waterford High years before, could have had him for the asking. Fortunately for Fort Frye, he didn’t get the position.
After four more winters as the FFHS boys’ coach, Liedtke stepped down to focus entirely on the girls’ team. His 27-year boys’ varsity record read 433-172 with two undefeated regular seasons (1989 and 2003).
“There were only three losing seasons, I believe,” Liedtke said, “and not many schools can say that.”
Since Liedtke’s been at the girls’ helm, there have been no losing seasons and one trip to the Final Four (2013). With the win against River, he has guided the ladies to a 167-45 mark.
“It was definitely a good ride while it lasted,” said former Cadet Brooke Borich, now a senior cager at Marietta College. “It went fast. He was a very, very good coach to us, and obviously put us in a position to get to state.
“He’s a great coach and great guy, and deserves his 600th win.”
Borich paused and smiled.
“He’s very intimidating, but I think we all kind of knew that getting into it,” she said. “It all made us better people down the road and ready for college basketball. It’s going to make the girls right now tougher.”
Alexis Enochs agreed.
“He just wants the best for everybody,” said the ex-Cadet and current MC sophomore player. “He’ll push you to be the best person you can be.
“Playing throughout high school, I just wasn’t a real aggressive player. He turned me into an aggressive player. And it’s helped me in college a lot, especially on defense.
“Coach Liedtke is all about defense. That’s my game, and that’s where I like to do best. Defensively, he’s definitely taught me a lot.”
Morgan Liedtke, the eldest of Liedtke’s three daughters, said ” we’re all really proud of him, and it’s so great to be a part of playing for him.”
The younger Liedtke, a former Cadet and Pioneer cager, is currently an assistant coach for her dad.
“It was really special being able to play with him and have such a successful four years with our teammates,” she said. “Now, I’m coaching with him.
“I’ve grown up with the system the whole time. Everything’s the same that it always has been. Now, I get to help out.”
While Dan Liedtke is now retired from teaching at Fort Frye High, that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon in coaching girls’ basketball.
“It’s fun, and I’m still having fun,” he said. “And, you’re still going to see me for awhile.”
Liedtke, wife Loretta, and daughters reside not far from Beverly. During the summer months of July and August, the family conducts fundamental basketball camps of their own at their Pavilion Court.