There are few coaches in the York-Adams League who are as competitive and intense as Red Lion girls’ basketball coach Don Dimoff.
Even fewer have been as successful.
For 23 of the past 25 years, Dimoff has skippered the Red Lion girls to some pretty remarkable achievements — 14 Y-A Division I titles, nine Y-A league titles and five appearances (two victories, 2011 and 2012) in the District 3 4-A title game.
As the collection of titles builds up, so do the victories. And, after Saturday’s 46-34 triumph against host Solanco in the Solanco Holiday Tournament championship game, Dimoff reached an historic milestone himself — 500 career wins.
“It’s pretty cool to be the winningest coach in York County with the girls,” Dimoff said. “And to do it all at one school is even better. I’ve been fortunate to have good principals, good ADs and great school boards that have allowed me to be successful.”
Hard work: The manner in which Dimoff has gone about compiling all of those victories over the years is actually pretty simple. It has a lot to do with the hard work that he and his assistants put into the program.
“Obviously my coaching staff and I put a lot of time in and do a lot of work and a lot to try to be successful,” Dimoff said. “But without the kids over the years, none of this would have been possible. I’ve just been fortunate enough to have great kids that are willing to put the work in and willing to sacrifice and willing to go the extra mile.”
Always prepared: Dimoff’s preparation is perhaps one of his best attributes. His players are hardly ever caught off-guard by anything an opponent does on the court.
“He prepares better than anybody I’ve ever coached against,” Delone Catholic coach Gerry Eckenrode said. “He’s so prepared. Even when his team may have inferior talent, they still are able to play very competitive and even win games just because of him.”
For Dimoff, being prepared is something that falls entirely on the coach’s lap. That's not to say he hasn’t been surprised over the years from the work done by his players.
“If we don’t win, I don’t want it to be a case of us just not being prepared,” Dimoff said. “And I’ve come to learn over the years just how much the kids themselves have done to prepare on their own to help the team.
He hates to lose: Dimoff’s obsession with being prepared actually has nothing to do with having a strong desire to win. On the contrary, he instead has a very strong desire to avoid losing.
“I’ve always hated losing more than I loved winning,” Dimoff said. “Always, always growing up through elementary school and into high school, I’ve been so competitive. And that’s what I’ve always said about coaching. I got into coaching because I wasn’t able to play anymore.”
The result of those competitive emotions is that Dimoff may need to have his memory jogged to recall a number of his team’s victories over the years.
He can, however, recite nearly all of the losses that he’s suffered through the years.
“Those milestone games, 100, 200, 300 … I really have to think about them,” he said. “Now 400 I can remember because it was the county championship. But I think that I’m like most coaches in that we think more about the losses than we do the wins and I admit that sometimes that isn’t the best thing to do.”
Competitive and intense: While Dimoff can sometimes come off as a bit of a mad man at times on the court — he’s been known to have a few fiery tirades directed at his players, coaches and sometimes the officials — off the court he’s actually a much different person.
“I’m two different people,” he said. “When I compete, I am all-in all the time. But when I’m not competing I’m actually pretty mild mannered.”
His daughter Courtney, whom he coached during her high school career, can attest to that.
“I don’t think that (my dad’s) competitiveness is something I’ll every have to remember,” she said. “I’m surrounded by it constantly. Whether it is basketball or a simple family board game, he and I think and act a lot alike, which makes the competitiveness even more exciting.”
Now a senior at Millersville, Courtney was on the court as a player in 2016 for her dad’s ninth Y-A title. For the former 1,000-point scorer at Red Lion, seeing her dad’s success brings a smile to her face.
“As a daughter, it’s amazing to see my dad do big things,” she said. “He works very hard to see that hard work in the form of 500 wins is something to remember.”
Daughter, Eckenrode play classic prank on Dimoff: Courtney was also part of perhaps one of the best pranks that was ever played on Dimoff over the years. During a summer league game at Gettysburg College back in 2012, Eckenrode spotted Courtney, who was just an eighth-grader, before Red Lion and Delone were set to square off.
“We had an off game so I decided to watch the varsity team play,” Courtney said. “But Gerry saw me and told me to grab a Delone jersey. He eventually subbed me in and my dad had no clue. I played up and down the court a few possessions and even got the ball once or twice.”
According to coach Dimoff, his focus on his team at that time helped create the memory.
“As much as during the season that I prepare for the other team, during the spring and summer I’m just so focused on what we’re doing as a team. It’s all about trying to prepare us and make us as good as possible.”
Eckenrode admitted that he got a big kick out of how the whole ordeal turned out.
“Everybody in the gym knew what was going on,” Eckenrode said. “I mean everybody. I mean even other people from other teams knew it. And after about three or four times up and down the floor he finally figured it out. Everybody was laughing, even his wife was laughing. But he was so intense that it took him quite some time before he finally figured it out.”
“He didn’t think it was as funny as most of us did,” Courtney said of her dad. “He just told me to ‘take that jersey off.' Gerry and I always talk about that whenever I see him as we’re pretty close too.”
Paying tribute to his wife: When Dimoff finally retires for good — he left the program for two years to help as an assistant coach at Millersville in 2017 and 2018 before returning last season — he certainly will have a lot of memories that he can share with his entire family, including Courtney, his son Casey and especially his wife Christine.
“My wife has been just as vital and just as important in this whole thing,” Dimoff said. “She’s put up with a lot over the years with all of the time that I’ve put into it and everything else. I think she’s been probably the most important person in this whole thing.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.