15. 2. 33. 1. 600. Numbers. Simply numbers.
What makes numbers relevant or significant are people – and the accomplishments they represent.
Six hundred is the number of wins Patti Hower has in her illustrious coaching career. It’s also about the number of young lives she has directly influenced in her tenure at Lebanon Catholic.
On December 17 on Assumption Hill, Hower registered the 600th win of her 33 years of coaching the Lebanon Catholic girls’ basketball program. On that night, the Beavers pounded Garden Spot, after misfiring on their two previous attempts at Hower’s milestone.
“When the buzzer went,” said the even-keeled Hower, “it made me feel emotional. Not that I cried or anything. But I kind of felt a tear.
“The thing was we had three shots at it,” Hower continued. “I knew it was in the kids’ minds. The kids were so excited for me. That’s what impressed me the most about it.”
To put some historical perspective on the achievement, to get to 600 victories, a coach must average 19 wins over the course of 32 years. And in the annals of Lebanon County scholastic sports history, 600 is probably a number that could only be approached by local baseball legend Lyle Krall, who has accrued a similar number of wins over a five-decade span with two programs – the Elco and Richland Legion baseball teams.
“I think it means I’ve coached an awful long time,” said Hower. “It’s about longevity. Anybody could get to 600 wins if they coached long enough. The unique thing is that I’ve won them all at the same place.
“It’s (coaching) been such a part of my life,” Hower continued, “that when I’m not coaching, I’m kind of bored. Like when I have to go home right after school instead of going to the gym. It keeps you busy and I think that keeps you healthy.”
Here’s some further perspective on Hower’s coaching career. Her 600 wins might not be her greatest accomplishment.
Through the years, Hower’s Beavers have won two PIAA Class A championships and 15 District Three titles.
“I guess probably the state championships would be first,” said Hower. “And number two would be the district championships. And then something like this. But this is more about the program than any one group of players.”
To be quite frank, Hower literally couldn’t have reached 600 wins without the presence of a few factors – lengthy posteason runs, the support of her family, a fundamental-stressing CYO program and an assistant coach by the name of Mike Mohl.
“We’ve always gone deep into the postseason,” said Hower. “When you think of 33 years, that’s over half of my life. I’ve always had the support of my family. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without their support.
“Any high school program that’s going to be successful has to have a good feeder program,” continued Hower. “Our CYO program has produced good players who are fundamentally sound. That obviously has helped our program over the years.”
Hower called Mohl her ‘best friend’ and credited him with being as much a part of the milestone as she was. Coaching-wise, they are nearly indistinguishable and Mohl has been at Hower’s side for all of her 33 years on the Catholic bench.
If Hower is the face of the Lebanon Catholic girls’ basketball program, Mohl is the guts.
“I’m technically the head coach, but we consult on everything,” said Hower of Mohl. “He’s like the co-head coach, but he has never had aspirations of being a head coach. The things he does behind the scenes are invaluable. We have a communication that’s not verbal. He just knows when to step in.”
And here’s one final perspective on Hower’s 600. While she’s got a lot of tread left on her tires, she probably doesn’t have another 600 wins in her.
“Maybe soon,” said Hower when asked if she has any thoughts of retiring. “This is how I look at it: when I don’t feel like going to open gyms or feel like going to practice, then I’ll know. I haven’t reached that point yet.
Sounds like there’s still some legacy to be fostered.