He called it the Wave.
He called it the Wave.
Now-retired Little River girls basketball coach Shane Cordell was so richly blessed with talent in 1994-1995, that he refused to call any of his girls ‘starters.’ Instead, he sent his players into the game in waves that frustrated and flustered opponents all season long.
“The idea came to me when we left McDonald’s in Hutchinson,” Cordell said during the induction ceremony Saturday for the KBCA Hall of Fame at Sam’s Chapel on the campus of Kansas Wesleyan University. “We were loaded with talent and I had to find a way to use them.”
The idea became reality, as Cordell would start his four juniors with one sophomore, let them play for four minutes, then send in the sophomores and freshmen.
And it worked, as Little River went 27-0 that season, broke several records, and kickstarted a 91-0 streak that ultimately saw the Redskins win four total state championships, two-straight Mid America Classic championship and earn themselves a permanent spot in the history books.
Those initial two-years of the four-year run of dominance that Little River enjoyed saw all the girls willingly sacrifice their playing time for the betterment of the team. While Nicky Ramage had the most game minutes of any player, averaging 20 a game, all others averaged about 14.
“All players want to play,” Cordell said. “Our players knew what was going to happen going into each game. My goal as a coach was to have a team that never paced itself. To play with an entire level of energy that had never been seen. I told them when they came off after four minutes, they should be completely exhausted.”
A highlight of those four years for Cordell and his girls was the opportunity to play in the first-ever Mid America Classic in the McPherson High School Roundhouse in 1996, which was, to Cordell, perhaps the strongest of the bunch.
Little River looked forward to the opportunity to test themselves against the best teams in the state of Kansas. The Redskins rolled through Hesston and Great Bend to set up a showdown with McPherson High, the team they wanted from the opening tip of the tournament.
At the final buzzer, Little River stood victorious 56-44.
“It had a state tournament atmosphere and the crowds to go along with it,” Cordell said. “I think this game gave our program a great deal of validity. McPherson’s coach, Scott Schaefer, I can remember came up to me after the game and said, ‘That was fun. Let’s do it again next week.’”
Not only was Cordell recognized Saturday for those Little River teams of 1995-98, he was sent into the KBCA Hall of Fame on his own, as well.
Cordell just wrapped a 34-year career, all with Little River, in March after notching a 604-225 record.
Among his many accomplishments, Cordell was named the Region 5 IFCA National Coach of the Year in 1998 and, more recently, was picked for the Ingrams “50 Kansans You Should Know” list earlier this year.
He led the Redskins to five state championship game appearances on the basketball court. On the football field, Cordell had a 204-94 record during his 29 season, which included state titles in 1981, 1996 and 1999.
Cordell told the full house at KWU Saturday the relationships he had built with the students over the last 30-plus years were what made the job so rewarding.
“You’re all wired differently,” Cordell said. “They have their own set of emotions, and, what will work with one, isn’t necessarily going to work with another. I was always trying to get the best out of each athlete. I would push them, I would challenge them and, to do this, have to gamble. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. When it didn’t, I tried something else.”
Cordell acknowledged that his coaching style when the game began was intense and could be seen as being unpleasant. That simply isn’t the case, he said.
“When the ball goes up, I’m in coach mode,” Cordell said. “Whether it is a game or practice, I do hope you understand that, underneath my coach mode, is a caring person who’s not nearly that tough. My players know that I cared about them then, and I care about them today.”
Contact Chris Swick by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @SwickSentinel.