A crowd of nearly 5,000 watched as the triumphant University of South Dakota men’s basketball team edged out a close 74-71 victory against South Dakota State on Jan. 5.
All in attendance had witnessed head coach Dave Boots collect his 500th win with the university, but Boots was looking elsewhere; his next game.
From 1980 to 1988, the Coyote’s basketball program had not experienced a winning season, and during the 1987-88 season the Coyotes finished a dismal 5-23 in the North Central Conference.
With the addition of new head coach Dave Boots in April 1988, the Coyotes losing ways drastically began to change.
“I knew this had potential to be a really good job in a competitive league,” Boots said. “Being the university of a state, it had some name recognition and if you did a good job and recruited well, you knew you would have a chance to win.”
Over the past 24 years as head coach for the Coyotes, Boots has done just that: win. Through the years he has placed first in conference standings seven times and won the conference tournament three times. He has accumulated 23 winning seasons, all consecutive years, until last season when the team finished 10-18.
Former USD player Nate Tibbetts (98-01), who is now an NBA assistant coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers, reminisced on his successful playing days as a point guard under Boots.
“I enjoyed it. As a young kid it was my dream to play for USD,” said Tibbetts. “The program before Boots wasn’t the greatest and once he came in things changed.”
Entering this season Boots had a combined record of 493-215 with the university, and finally during the holiday recess he collected his 500th win as a Coyote head coach.
“It’s not that big of a deal. It’s just the result of a person being at a place for a long time with a great group of players,” Boots said. “I wish people just wouldn’t bring it up.”
Current USD player Juevol Myles was appreciative of the opportunity to be apart of another of Boots’ milestones.
“Five hundred wins shows that you have been truly successful, it shows how much hard work he has put in and how much dedication he has to coaching,” said Myles. “I am very happy for him and his family.”
Tibbetts credited Boots’ success to Boots, the man himself.
“It’s a credit to him. Players have come and gone, but it’s always the same system,” Tibbetts said. “He doesn’t get enough credit for the program. Nobody wants to win more than Coach Boots does.”
Boots said he is always working to develop USD’s Division-I program at a higher level, something he focuses on everyday.
“You want to have long term goals for your program and you want to develop it,” Boots said. “Right now we are trying to develop our program at the D-1 level and that consumes a lot of time, effort and energy. That is what were are focusing on everyday.”
Boots’ continued success and persistence to develop the basketball program to the best of its abilities can be attributed to his love for the game.
“I like the team game,” he said. “Every individual had to do their job in order for the whole unit to be successful. The chemistry that’s involved from offense, to defense, to rebounding, passing and much more are what make the game.”