SPHS boys basketball

First year head coach Bill Wishowski (left) and first year assistant coach Preston Springer (right) led the South Park High School boys varsity basketball team to its first winning season in five years. (Photo by Magie Downare-Nevius/The Flume)

In their first year as the South Park High School boys basketball coaches, Bill Wishowski and Preston Springer led the Burro team to its first winning season in five years.

“It was a positive experience on many levels. Our ultimate ambition as coaches is for the team to have fun, show continuous improvement, and teach life lessons along the way. In this, I think we kicked things off on a constructive foundation,” head coach Wishowski said.

At the conclusion of the 2013-14 season, coach Jud Weece had guided the 12 Burro athletes to a 9-8 overall standing, but the ranking had fallen to 4-14 in his final year with an equal number on the roster.

The program then proceeded with a new head coach for the next three years, as Coach Rick Salazar began to actively scale the ladder, turning in a 6-15 record during the 2015-16 season with 11 athletes, 8-10 for the 2016-17 season with 11 suited up for varsity, and finishing with a 7-12 overall record last year, having a decline to 10 basketball players.

“I hope to continue to build interest back into the sport. I feel that there is a lot of potential in South Park that just needs developed; and with continued increase of interest and athletes, we can build up a better competitive edge, which will ultimately help the program,” Assistant Coach Springer said.

Boosting to 15 varsity competitors, Wishowski and Springer hopped on the success train and completed the 2018-19 season with an 11-7 overall record, along with a 4-4 league record.

“I feel that much of the success that we had as coaches stems from the fact that our goals are aligned and we both understand that differences are positive,” Wishowski said.

Ahead at 7-2 in the first half of the season, the Burros appeared to be a team to look out for when conference play commenced, which proved to be true when the team returned to play after winter break to delight its fans with four league wins (Cotopaxi Pirates, Custer County Bobcats, Cripple Creek-Victor Pioneers, and Crested Butte Titans).

They finished the season ranked second out of four teams in the 2A/1A West Central League standings, finishing behind the Cotopaxi Pirates (11-9, 6-4), but out-competing the Cripple Creek-Victor Pioneers (7-11, 1-1) and the Custer County Bobcats (3-17, 0-4).

“A short term goal would be to win the league title and then on to district titles, but never stop reaching for more as we are always helping the kids to reach for those higher goals and never settling,” Springer said.

Suffering four losses (Center Vikings, Sargent Farmers, Sanford Indians and Del Norte Tigers) during the regular season had dropped the Burro team to fifth place out of seven teams within the district standings and positioned them to play the number. 4-ranked Center Vikings in the first round of postseason play.

Despite all efforts, the Burros’ season ended on a 68-50 loss in the quarterfinals of the 2019 class 2A Boys Basketball District 1 Tournament Feb. 19.

“I’d like to see continued winning seasons, continued teamwork, and eventually, banners on the wall,” Wishowski said.

Although in their first year with the South Park basketball program, neither coach is unfamiliar with the athletic world.

While coach Wishowski has played sports most of his life and was named an All Conference basketball player, he has stretched his love of athletics to many fields and has settled on coaching, where he was a former youth baseball coach for over nine years and is entering his second year as the South Park High School head baseball coach.

“The kids and their parents are what enticed me to coaching the high school basketball team,” Wishowski said.

With a similar background, Springer began a long career in team sports as a peewee player and extended the passion throughout high school, where the South Park High School alumnus became an All State football and basketball player.

His talents then led him to playing a year of college football at Western Colorado University in Gunnison, Colo. Springer then began his term on the sidelines when coaching the 2008 and 2009 seasons of the South Park youth football club, the Grizzlies.

“I feel that teams and sports help each kid to develop better socially and competitively, so I applied for the coaching job to give a helping hand to the student-athletes at South Park. It was a big learning experience for me, but one that I have enjoyed,” Springer said.

Having moved to South Park 18 years ago, Wishowski works for the Breckenridge Tourism Office to drive out-of-state visitation.

“I moved here for the simple reasons of affordable housing with land and no deed restrictions, but I have been in my career field for 27 years. Like sports, it takes hard work and commitment to obtain the things you want out of life,” he said.

Not all business, Wishowski is a highly active outdoorsman, where he enjoys hiking and stick-and-ball sports.

“I love to watch my kids play, spend time with friends, and of course, games on the weekends,” he said.

A semi-native, Springer has lived in South Park since 1995 and is now the owner and operator of a small local business called SpringerWorks.

“A decline in the oil field, my previous job, and the want to be home with my family caused me to start my business four years ago,” he said.

While both coaches are family men, their time spent in the gym has not limited their time with their families, but instead has increased it as both have made the basketball program a family affair.

“I have two kids and both of them participate in athletics at the high school and middle school,” Wishowski said.

In addition, wife of 16 years Allison Wishowski is a volunteer for the South Park Activities Association and photographer for South Park sports, while wife of 10 years Erin Springer devotes her time behind the scenes to help organize and spreading and gathering important information for the team.

“While I won’t coach my graduating son next season, I still have two in elementary school, who both show interest in the sport,” Springer said.

Even though the 2018-19 basketball season has come to an end, both men have high hopes of returning to the court in future seasons.

“As coaches, we have similar goals for the program. We come from different walks of life, but have similar work ethics and drive,” Springer said.

On top of returning, the coaching duo also has plans for building the basketball program budget for the acquisition of necessary equipment, warm-ups and traveling for competition.

“Building the budget will be something we work at every year. It will help to purchase new gear and equipment that helps build upon skill and ability,” Springer said.

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