Don Petranovich began his career coaching high school basketball in 1976 at Winslow High School, and enjoyed a remarkable career retiring in 2010. Over the years, Petranovich achieved many honors including being named National Coach of the Year for the National Athletic Coaches Association and National Coach of the Year for the National Federation of High School Sports.
A man of great humility and passion for youth doesn’t receive recognition based on effort. From 1976 to 2010 Coach Petranovich coached the Winslow Lady Bulldogs to an impressive eight state championships. For Coach Petranovich, his passion for education and sports began much earlier than 1976. “Ever since I was in 5th grade, I wanted to be a teacher and a coach. I am fortunate that I was able to fulfill my dream and found a home at Winslow High School,” stated Petranovich.
Looking back, Coach Petranovich acknowledges that his success coaching the Lady Bulldogs was more than his ability to coach and win. Reflecting on his successful track record at Winslow, Petranovich attributes having great kids who worked hard, support from the administration at Winslow High School and support from the community to his successful career as a high school basketball coach.
On the court, Petranovich’s philosophy was to create a high performing defensive team. He stated, “If you win on a consistent basis, you don’t change what is working. Winslow has never changed its philosophy of the game much over the years, because they do great at consistently winning their games.” He added, “Speaking of consistency, my biggest challenge coaching the Lady Bulldogs was keeping everything consistent.”
As a young coach in 1976, Petranovich’s vision for his legacy was to be successful and to leave an impact on the lives of the girls he coached, and hoped that those who participated in the Winslow basketball program, left the program as better individuals with life skills and experience.
Throughout the years of coaching, awards and championships, Petranovich’s proudest memory is from the 1989 and 1990 basketball seasons. “In the 1989 and 1990 seasons, the Lady Bulldogs record was 60-1. I coached a really great group of student athletes and I am extremely proud of those season in particular,” said Coach Petranovich.
Since his inaugural coaching season, Petranovich has seen the sport of high school basketball change drastically. In the beginning there were no summer leagues, so in the off-season Petranovich would invite Coconino and Flagstaff High School to Winslow to play, which is vastly different to high school basketball programs in present day. “The sport of girls high school basketball has gone from small crowds to enormous crowds supporting student athletes, and features athletes who assume the spotlight and in many cases girls basketball has become a main event during sectional tournaments and state finals,” said Petranovich.
Now fully retired from his coaching career, Petranovich enjoys the sidelines and watching the continued success of the Lady Bulldogs and the continuation of the legacy he worked to build over the years. “I want high school coaches to be themselves and do what feels successful. There is no reason to copy anyone else, because it won’t work. Everyone has their own style of coaching and working with student athletes. I have tremendous respect for high school coaches, because committing yourself to coaching a team means spending a lot of time away from family,” said Petranovich.
This summer, Petranovich will be inducted into the National Hall of Fame for the National Federation of High School Athletics, the highest honor a coach can receive. “I am honored that my work with the Lady Bulldogs basketball program has left a lasting impression on high school sports. I began my career, doing my dream job, it doesn’t get much better than that. Today, being recognized for my work and my passion is just a huge honor,” he stated.
Following in the footsteps Don Petranovich is not an easy task, after several decades of tremendous success. In 2010, Jerron Jordan emerged as the head coach of the Winslow Lady Bulldogs, and has remained consistent in the legacy left by his predecessor of winning, sportsmanship and respect for the game.
“I am blessed and honored to coach at Winslow High School following the legend Don Petranovich. He was more than a coach at Winslow High School. Don Petranovich is a friend, mentor and symbol of community pride. His dedication to education and athletics was apparent in his hardworking nature. His teachings have paved the way for current and future coaches. I am grateful for the teachings that he has instilled in me and our student-athletes at Winslow High School,” said Coach Jerron Jordan of Winslow High School.