WADSWORTH — The man who will have the Wadsworth High basketball court dedicated in his honor tonight wouldn’t want the ceremony to be about him.
Medina County Sports Hall of Fame inductee Dave Sladky, who compiled a 290-156 record from 1972-93 and led the Grizzlies to the 1981 Class AAA state championship game, would want the dedication of “Coach Dave Sladky Court” to be about the Wadsworth community he so dearly loved.
“I’ve thought a lot about that,” said Sladky’s 46-year-old son Mike, who is in his 15th year teaching at Wadsworth after graduating from the school in 1990. “It would be very humbling for him.
“At no point in his career did I ever feel like he thought he was above anyone else. He would give credit to coaches and administrators and players. He’d believe it was a community award, a community dedication, as opposed to an individual award.”
The dedication will take place around 7 p.m., between the junior varsity and varsity boys games between Wadsworth and Brecksville. Prior to his legendary coaching career at Wadsworth, Dave Sladky, who died on Dec. 12, 2016 at the age of 74, attended Brecksville, graduating from the school in 1960.
“I think he would be proud of it for the people he worked with and the players he coached,” said 43-year-old son Matt, a 1993 Wadsworth graduate who went on to play basketball at the United States Naval Academy.
“I think it’s more that than an honor for just him. He would look at it as an honor to the school and the teams he had and the coaches he coached with way more than as an individual accolade. If you played or coached with my dad, you know he was far from big on individual accolades.”
Sladky, whose teams had winning records in 19 of his 21 seasons and captured nine league titles, will be represented by his wife of 48 years, Carol, as well as Mike, currently the varsity girls basketball coach at Brecksville, and Matt, who lives outside of Annapolis, Md., and works in software technology sales to the government.
Former player Doug Beeman, the treasurer of Wadsworth schools, will read a proclamation naming the court after Sladky, after which Bill Oehlenschlager, the point guard on the 1981 state final team and now a pediatrician in town, will address the crowd.
Mike and Matt Sladky will then speak from a family perspective and will make sure their mother is recognized for helping their father succeed.
“She probably deserves more credit than my dad,” Matt said. “I’m being very serious. In a lot of ways, my dad taught me more about marriage and life than basketball, and my mom is a huge part of that. … My mom certainly sacrificed a lot for us as a family, and for my dad to do all the things he thought he needed to do to be successful at coaching.
“Who was picking up everything else that he wasn’t doing? My mom was. Who got us to practices and cooked meals and planned everything? She did. I look back at it and I’m floored at how much she had to do. She sacrificed a lot, but she loved it, too.”
Matt and wife Lacey, also a graduate of the Naval Academy, have a 10-year-old daughter, Addison, and 6-year-old son, Logan.
Mike and wife Heather, who live in Medina, have a 12-year-old daughter, Marissa, who attends St. Francis Xavier.
Both are extremely grateful to have had the chance to play basketball for their father, who was famous for his plaid sports jacket, red socks, bushy eyebrows and sometimes demonstrative but always caring nature.
“When I reflect on Dad, for all those years, just seeing kids come and go from our house, it sticks out to me that he developed relationships,” Mike said. “Those relationships helped him be successful with his teams on the floor.
“I consider him a teacher. There was never anything we did that didn’t have a purpose to allow our team to be its very best. Even in challenging situations, he would reflect on them as if we were dealing with some kind of adversity in life. He would find solutions on the basketball court and they translated into our life behavior.”
Dave Sladky demanded that his players work hard, especially on the defensive end, and that they put the team first. He frequently used 10 players because he believed a long-term, successful program had to give opportunities to a lot of kids or interest would decline.
The strategy worked on the floor and translated into the classroom as well, as former players like Mark Postak, Chris Hassinger, Scott Callaghan and Mike Vukovich all went into teaching and coaching.
“He was certainly passionate,” Matt said. “He was very much more into the teaching part of it than he was the winning or losing. I say that about basketball, but I also say it about parenting and all aspects of his life. It had more to do with the process and less to do with the outcome.
“From a philosophy standpoint, one thing I would take away from his coaching, but also the way he lived his life, was he was a very positive person. Sure, he could be loud. If he wanted to get points across, he would do it in different ways, but I rarely heard that as coming across as screaming at somebody. It was a passion and a positive way of explaining something.”
Mike, a burly but quiet man who attended Baldwin Wallace for one year before walking on to the football team at Miami of Ohio, has utilized many of his dad’s coaching philosophies. To this day, he says playing for his father was a special and unique experience.
“It was something I’ll never forget, for sure,” he said. “When you’re involved with something as a family that means so much and you’re able to do it side by side, it meant a lot to me. Those are days I would never, ever give away.”