When the final buzzer sounded on the ‘03-04 season — the Ironmen were crowned Regional Champions, Community’s first title under Witzig and the program’s first in 13 years.
Once a write-off, a W penciled in on the schedule, the Ironmen now were a team to be taken seriously.
In his second season, Witzig found success. In his fifth, he found confidence.
The ’03-04 team, Witzig said, was the team that “got us going,” that made us think, “hey, we can win games in March.”
In his first half decade helming the Iron, “we could never really win a game in the postseason,” Witzig said.
The ‘03-04 team, Witzig said, “played hard and played together” and from there, the Ironmen basketball program “took off.”
“That’s when we start playing more man to man all-the-time,” Witzig said.
Man-to-man defense would become a signature of Community’s play, a calling card for Witzig and the Ironmen.
The defensive scheme Witzig’s Ironmen dialed up frequently this season, as they held opponents to scoring season-lows 12 times. While Community’s foes struggled to put up points, Witzig’s team put up Ws in a season that culminated with a 33-2 record.
To Witzig, man-to-man is the Ironmen way. It is how basketball should be played.
It is defense that Witzig wants to be remembered for, not flashy offense, but hard-nosed, gritty defensive play.
When people talk about the Ironmen program, Witzig said, “I hope that they mention that we play great defense, that when…teams show up to play… they’re gonna have to play really hard, and it’s gonna be hard for them to score.”
Ralph Hodge is who the Ironmen can credit for this emphasis on defensive play. Hodge, Witzig’s college coach at Olivet Nazarene University, is who the Ironmen coach says he emulates the most.
Despite spending just one year at Olivet, Witzig said he adopted most of his coaching philosophies from that experience.
That experience and his time with Ron Rose — the man Witzig eventually replaced as Community’s head varsity basketball coach.
After coaching under Rose at the freshman and sophomore levels, Rose’s decision to take a job at State Farm left the varsity coaching position vacant.
Rose left an impression on a young Witzig before leaving Community.
Rose, Witzig said, was “really passionate… about getting in the gym and rebounding for guys,” Witzig said, “a really good offensive basketball coach.”
While Hodge taught Witzig defense, he credits Rose with influencing the Iron’s offensive style.
“I learned a lot about offense from him,” Witzig said.