By Brandon Hurley
A new face will patrol the sidelines at Panorama girls' basketball games for the first time in nearly 30 years next winter.
The Panorama school board voted to not renew the contract of the program's winningest – and only five-on-five coach in the school's history, Dan Druivenga at a special meeting April 26.
The 400-game winner was a model of consistency and success throughout his 25 years at the helm, most recently guiding the Panthers to the state tournament in 2018 as well as coming just a game short of a return trip this past February. PHS has won a remarkable 67 games in the past three years, producing a pair of all state players in Devyn Kemble and Bailey Beckman.
Panorama superintendent Shawn Holloway declined to elaborate on the school board's decision to let Druivenga go after nearly three decades, expressing confidence in their choice to move on.
"With this situation being a personnel matter I'm not able to share the details of the decision," he said. "As superintendent, I make contract recommendations to our board of directors. Ultimately, the board voted not to issue a renewal of (the) girls' basketball coaching contract to Mr. Druivenga for next school year."
A Guthrie County Times Vedette reporter attended the April 26 meeting and recalled a few moments of contention, as one parent in particular threatened to enroll her daughter at another school. Whether this was prior to the school board's decision is unclear, but it did create a bit of a strain at the meeting, the reporter said.
Druivenga leaves quite the shoes to fill, producing 459 career victories (all at Panorama, a rarity in today's sporting climate), a staggering average of 18 wins per year, highlighted by 14 conference championships and five state tournament appearances. In fact, Panorama has employed just two girls' basketball coaches in the last 31 years, becoming one of the top programs in the state over that time period.
Druivenga, known for his penchant for fundamentals and a no nonsense attitude, engineered the Panthers to 20 win seasons in nine out of the last 10 years, including a string of six straight from 2009 to 2015. His team's rarely suffered double-digit losses, as they continually dominated the West Central Activities Conference.
Druivenga studied under the tutelage of Hall of Fame legend Louis "Bud" McCrea as an assistant in Panora from 1987-1993. McCrea was the final six-on-six coach at Panorama, compiling 498 career wins, including back-to-back state titles at Lake View-Auburn in the 1970s.
Druivenga took the reigns from McCrea following the Panthers' state tournament appearance in the final year of six-on-six in 1993.
The long-time coach had little trouble living up to the high expectations built by McCrea, returning to the state tournament in consecutive seasons in 1995 and 1996. He carried the torch for a tradition-rich PHS program, capturing his 300th win in January of 2012, which was later followed by his 400th win in 2016.
Druivenga built a reputation as a coach with a passion to teach, holding individual training sessions during the summer, from 8 a.m. to noon. He was quoted in a 2017 Guthrie County Vedette story, saying he coveted skill development above all else, even more than stockpiling victories, which he made look rather easy.
Druivenga believed firmly in fundamentals and establishing a desire to win. The harder you push to come out on top, the better you'd become as a player, he felt.
"You have to teach competition," Druivenga said in the 2017 feature. "If a kid wants to specialize, I'm not going to hold them back, but they need to be competitive, sports-minded. It's a process and it gets you better for everything."
Druivenga only employed a single full-time assistant during his 25 years in Guthrie County, as Tim Lazenby quickly became his most trusted colleague. The assistant has seen it all, a plethora of highs and dozens of athletes moving on to the collegiate level. Lazenby, quoted in the same 2017 story as mentioned above, never doubted Druivenga's dedication to the game of basketball, or his student athletes.
"He has their (his players) back," Lazenby said in the Guthrie County Vedette. "He will do whatever needs to be done to help them become successful in life."
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Guthrie County Times Vedette reached out to hear from Druivenga himself, last week, but he declined to comment.