By SCOTT JACKSON
Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The life of a basketball coach is one of consistent changes, even for coaches that are part of a program for several years.
When it comes to being a college basketball head coach, however, change also may include moving on to another program.
"That's just what happens in this profession," John Wardenburg said. "There are very few guys that stay in one job for their entire lives. There are very few Mike Krzyzewski's or Dean Smith's out there. That's just how it goes."
After 93 wins, two trips to the national tournament and three years’ worth of indelible memories, Barret Peery has resigned as head basketball coach at Indian Hills Community College, the school announced Monday. Peery is leaving to take a job as an assistant coach at an NCAA Division I program, the identity of which can’t be disclosed until later this week.
Wardenburg, Peery’s assistant for the past three seasons and his former high school basketball coach, has been tabbed to replace him as head coach of the Warriors, a job he says he’s thrilled about.
“I appreciate the trust that Dr. Sprouse, Dean of Students Chris Bowser, and Athletic Director Mike Hagen have shown in me,” Wardenburg said. "They've expressed tremendous appreciation for the work our staff has done the past three years by naming me the head coach. I am excited to build on what we have built here over the last three years.”
IHCC President Dr. Marlene Sprouse said she is excited to have Wardenburg take the reins of the program.
“Coach Wardenburg has been an integral part of the program’s growth during the three years coach Peery was at the helm. During a game, you would often see them conferring and strategizing,” Sprouse said. “John loves our students, our program, our college and our community.”
Peery is departing after his third IHCC team completed a 34-3 season with a trip to the NJCAA championship game where the Warriors lost to Jones County (MS). The Warriors advanced to the DI national tourney after winning the region and district titles. They entered the tourney as the top-seeded team and the nation’s top-ranked team and won three consecutive close games before coming up short in the final.
Peery breathed new life into the IHCC program after taking over in April 2011.
“I’m very proud of where the program is today and the steps we have been able to make in our time here,” Peery said. “My family and I have had an unbelievable experience here in Ottumwa and we couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Wardenburg talked about the opportunity that awaits Peery as an assistant coach on the Division I level.
"There's obviously a trade off there. Now, he'll go back be an assistant and there's no doubt in my mind that he'll get another opportunity to be a head coach somewhere," Wardenburg said.
With an overall record of 93-11, Peery’s teams were almost impossible to beat at home, where they posted a 60-1 mark. They were also exceptionally tough against conference opponents, going 18-2 in league play and 22-2 overall.
His first team at IHCC was ranked No. 1 during the regular season and qualified for the national tournament, where they finished in seventh place, winning three of four games, and wound up 33-4.
Last year, Indian Hills was banned by the NJCAA from playing in the postseason and ended the year 26-4.
Peery came to IHCC after three years as an assistant coach at the University of Utah, his sixth coaching stop after graduating from college at Southern Utah.
Peery said he and his family thoroughly enjoyed their time in Ottumwa.
“The people of Indian Hills and this community are what make it so special to work and live here," Peery said. "We have been blessed to make so many great friends and be so welcomed from the moment we arrived. The basketball has been great and we’ve had great players here that have taken us on an awesome run. The thing that will be the most difficult will be leaving all our friends and Warrior Nation.”
“As much as we are going to miss Barret, we are very proud of him,” said Sprouse. “He brought our program to a new level and created enthusiasm in our fans that we had not seen in quite awhile.”
Wardenburg has an extensive coaching background, at virtually all levels. He came to Indian Hills after a season as an assistant at BYU-Hawaii, where he helped guide the Seahawks to the NCAA DII national championship game.
Prior to that, he was an assistant coach at BYU for eight years, during which the Cougars had four-straight 20-win seasons and a 97-34 overall record.
The next IHCC head man had 13 years experience at the high school and junior college levels before going to BYU. In seven years as head coach at Payson and Pine View High Schools, he was 105-62. His teams won five league titles, went to the state tournament every year and his Pine View squad won the state title in 2001.
It was at Payson High School where Wardenburg coached a young Barret Peery.
After leaving the high school ranks, Wardenburg spent four years as an assistant coach at Dixie State College in Utah and was later the Athletic Director there.
“There is no other junior college in the nation that can match the administrative support, the facilities and, most of all, the fan support that our basketball team enjoys at Indian Hills,” Wardenburg said. “ I am really excited about the opportunity.”
The new IHCC head coach was born in Cedar Rapids and was a multi-sport athlete in high school in Kiel, Wis.
He and his wife, Pam, have four sons, three granddaughters and one grandson.