Brian Johnson Special Correspondent
It’s been an incredible run for Latta High School boys head basketball coach Donnie Husband and his Panthers the past two seasons.
Back-to-back Class 2A state championships and a 56-7 record over that span have been nothing short of amazing.
“Our kids played so stinkin’ hard. It’s been a team effort the past two years,” said Husband.
While the Panthers were busy repeating as champs, Husband has pulled off a personal three-peat. He has been named the 2014 Ada News All-Area Boys Coach of Year after claiming the honor in 2012 and 2013. Husband is the first-ever coach to pull off such a feat since The Ada News started handing out the award in 1963.
Husband has been in the coaching business for 31 years and says there were many times he dreamed about just getting his teams to a state tournament.
The ultimate dream was finally fulfilled in 2012-13 when Husband, as well as Latta, achieved their first state title after registering a 29-3 record. Husband and the Panthers followed that up with a 27-4 mark for the 2013-14 campaign, which resulted in the state title in March.
“It’s a tribute to these kids. When you win a state championship, everyone (on the team) gets recognized, and I’m a product of that. It’s been a great thrill,” Husband said.
Achieving the second title in consecutive seasons was probably more difficult the second time around, considering the Panthers had a target on their back after capturing last year’s crown.
“To beat great programs from Thomas and Haworth and to play Haworth twice in 13 days, it was difficult,” said Husband. “It’s humbling, and it leaves me in awe that we were able to accomplish those things.”
The degree of difficulty in season two was compounded by the team staying focused through a long regular season, according to Husband. However, it was a growing opportunity for Latta when it endured and prospered through many close games.
“This year it seemed harder. In fact it can be hard when you have a difficult regular season with a long stretch of games in January, especially when you’ve been to the state tournament the year before,’ Husband said. “In a lot of our games, we turned it on in different parts and in different ways to win. At the same time, I think it made us tougher.”
Of course, there was the added challenge of replacing two starters from the previous year’s team.
“It was a challenge all year long,” said Husband. “It’s the journey. It’s what makes it so much fun.”