Bavery gets call to the Hall

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Longtime Middleton boys basketball coach Kevin Bavery was recently named to the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

It was 10 a.m. Sunday, a time when much of society is at church, breakfast or simply lounging on their off day.

Not Kevin Bavery.

“I’m watching film of Baylor,” said Bavery, Middleton’s boys basketball coach since 2006. “I like some of the things they do offensively against certain zone defenses.”

This, in a nutshell, Bavery.

Energetic. Passionate. And always trying to stay one step ahead of the competition.

It’s why Bavery has lasted four-plus decades in a business that chews up and spits out most coaches. And it’s why Bavery recently received the ultimate honor when he was voted into the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Bavery was one of 12 men voted into the Class of 2023, a group that will be honored during a banquet at the Glacier Canyon Lodge of the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells on Sept. 24.

“You look at some of the names of the guys that are in the Hall and it’s pretty remarkable to think that you’re going to be one of the guys, too,” Bavery said. “It’s a little overwhelming.”

Bavery, who’s leading Middleton to its best season in a quarter century, has a 439-272 career record, including a 223-141 mark with the Cardinals. He also held head coaching positions at Oregon and Cedarburg before coming to Middleton.

Bavery is the second boys basketball coach in Middleton history named to the Hall, joining 2007 recipient John Boyle.

Those that know Bavery best — like longtime assistant coaches Jerry Raffel and Tom Lesar — aren’t the least bit surprised the Hall came calling. In fact, they’re surprised it took this long.

“Kevin has always had vision,” said Raffel, who’s arguably Bavery’s most trusted aide. “He’s always looking for the newest ways. He always wants to be ahead of the trend, not behind the curve.

“He’s just so innovative. The one thing about Kevin is he’s always looking forward. He doesn’t look back real often. He doesn’t like to dwindle on losses and is always looking to the next day.”

Lesar, who coached with Bavery in Oregon and is on the Cardinals’ current staff, agreed with Raffel.

“As a coach, he has all the qualities you look for in a leader,” Lesar said of Bavery. “He’s humble, gracious, a relentless competitor, but grounded in the things that really matter when the game and seasons are over.

“Lifelong lessons of what it means to be a good teammate and accepting responsibility when life gets a little tough. Overall, he’s been a great mentor of kindness, which is one of the greatest attributes any person can pass along.”

Bavery got his start as the sophomore coach at Watertown High School in 1982-’83 under the legendary Eli Crogan, who went into the Hall of Fame himself in 1996.

Bavery went to Oregon High School in 1985 and spent five years coaching the lower levels there, then was named the Panthers’ head coach in 1991-‘92. Bavery went 184-107 with Oregon over the next 13 seasons, and led the Panthers to the WIAA Division 2 state tournament in 2000.

Bavery spent two seasons at Cedarburg where he went 20-24, then he replaced the legendary Boyle at Middleton in 2006.

Raffel, who played for Boyle at Madison East before joining his Middleton staff, stayed on to work for Bavery. And what Raffel immediately noticed was Bavery’s willingness to embrace change and to grow in a sport where many coaches become set in their ways.

Bavery has taken his staff across the country to study and learn from coaches such as John Cailpari and Mark Few. Bavery certainly has offenses and defenses he likes best, but has no problem making sweeping changes to fit his personnel.

“Change gets harder the older you get,” Raffel said. “But Kevin seems to embrace it.

“Anybody that says they have a system and they just run their system and every player that comes in has to fit that mold, those teams are the ones you see that go up and down. We’ve been pretty consistent and I think it’s because Kevin’s so good at adapting.”

The results at Middleton have been stellar.

Bavery led Middleton to the sectional finals in both 2006 and 2009, and guided the Cardinals to a Big Eight Conference title in 2015-’16.

This year’s Middleton squad is 17-1 overall, 14-1 in the Big Eight Conference and ranked No. 2 in the state. The Cardinals are trying to make their first trip to the state tournament since Boyle’s 1998 team reached the state championship game and finished second.

When Bavery’s team found out last week he was named to the Hall, they were giddy — to say the least.

“He’s a great coach and he always tries to get the whole team better,” said sophomore center Will Garlock. “He has great energy and he keeps us fighting down the stretch. He never gives up on us and it’s great to see that in a coach.”

While Bavery played high school basketball nearly a half century before these current Cardinals, they all marvel at his daily energy and passion for the game.

“I’ve never seen the dude without a Middleton basketball shirt in my life. He loves this program,” said senior point guard Gavyn Hurley said. “And he has a lot of energy man. He comes to practice with more energy than you’d think. He comes in with energy like he’s in his 40s. I just think he loves to do it.”

Senior forward Owen Cooney raved about Bavery’s knowledge and passion for the game. More importantly, though, Cooney said it’s about more than wins and losses with Bavery.

“We had a big team huddle recently and he asked us what we think the coaches should do, like what is their job?” Cooney said. “And the big thing we all came up with is that they love us and I think that’s really evident in coach Bavery. He really cares about us and about our team.”

Bavery was quick to credit the terrific assistants, as well as lower level coaches he’s worked with at Middleton. That group includes Raffel, Lesar, Tim Simon, Gordon Enderle, Antonio Hoye, Tim Davis, Clint Steigenberger, Keith Vogt, Blaine Mueller, and Chris Zais, among others.

Bavery also thanked the three athletic directors he’s worked with at Middleton — Luke Francois, Bob Joers and now Jamie Sims.

“I haven’t won any games. We’ve won games,” Bavery said. “It really is about having great people surrounding you and staying loyal.”

Bavery has certainly stayed loyal to the game he started coaching 40 seasons ago.

Back then, Bavery was simply trying to learn as much as possible, while keeping his boss — the legendary Crogan — happy.

Bavery passed that test — and every one that’s come his way since.

And the Hall of Fame took notice.

“You don't get into this business thinking about stuff like that,” Bavery said. “You do it because you love the game.”

And now, the game returned the love with the highest honor it can bestow on a coach.



High School Coaches

Scott Anderson, Stevens Point

Kevin Bavery, Middleton

Steve Board, Richland Center

Troy Cullen, Kimberly

Jim Doolittle, Fall River

Scott Herrick, Pius XI Catholic

Mark Lierman, Shullsburg

John Mielke, Antigo, Appleton

Paul Millan, Goodman

Dave Schultz, Waukesha West

Dan Wandrey, Brookfield Central

Dave Wenzel, Fox Valley Lutheran


College Coaches

Bosco Djurickovic, Carthage

Harold Olson, Ohio State


Assistant Coaches

Ron Kading, Potosi

Tony Servais, La Crosse Central


Friends of the Game

Ralph Davis, Milwaukee

Dave Strasburg, Fall Creek



Tallendra Carson, Milwaukee

Norm Knauf, Weston


Players — Girls

Sue Bartz, Green Bay West

Sarah (Meyer) Gard, Lena

Meredith (Onson) Ottman, Oshkosh West

Kelly Schwerman, Kettle Moraine

Jan Zimmerman, Fall Creek


Players — Boys

Brian Butch, Appleton West

Any Chesser, Milwaukee Lincoln

Andy Compton, Madison West

Mike Johnson, Phillips

Steve Novak, Brown Deer

Tim Paterick, Janesville Craig

John Schell, Cumberland

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