Tim Winland: Successful in many sports, basketball was his favorite

Editor’s note: This is the second of four features about this year’s inductees into the Lovell High School Athletic Hall of Fame. The four are being featured in order of their graduation date from LHS: Grant Goodrich (1949), Tim Winland (1986), Chad Lindsay (1989) and Janis Beal (2001). The four were inducted Saturday, Feb. 10, during the Lovell vs. Rocky Mountain basketball games.

On February 8, 1986, Lovell High School head boys basketball coach Ralph Winland looked down the bench at his veteran basketball team as introductions were beginning for the state championship game against Wyoming Indian.

The Bulldogs and Chiefs had developed a rivalry of epic proportions since Lovell joined the Class 2A ranks two seasons earlier. Lovell had lost to the Chiefs in each of the previous two state championship games in 1984 and 1985, but the Bulldogs had snapped Wyoming Indian’s 50-game winning streak earlier in that ’85-86 season. And this game was for all the marbles.

Tim Winland

“I looked at those guys, I looked at their faces and said to myself, ‘We’ve already won this game,’ based on the look on their faces. They were a determined bunch. They were going to win that one,” Winland said.

And win it they did, defeating the Chiefs 66-54 behind 17 points from Tim Winland, 16 from David Thatch and 14 from Mel McArthur.

That determination, that focus, that competitive fire displayed by Tim Winland – and his teammates – had and would continue to serve him well throughout his school days in multiple sports and later on as a highly successful coach and outstanding teacher and administrator.

From the time he was little, Tim Winland was always good at sports. Give him a basketball, baseball or football, a tennis racket, or even a horseshoe, and he could play that sport and excel. While he was good at most everything, he was born into a basketball family. Not only was father Ralph his high school coach, he was a top-notch cager during his own career, dominating in high school and playing college ball.

So perhaps it was only natural that Tim Winland loved basketball.

“I don’t know if he liked basketball more than the others; I never really thought about it,” father Ralph said. “He maybe favored basketball, but it never really showed. He didn’t talk about basketball during, say, football season. He looked at going to a smaller college for football, but I think basketball was probably his favorite sport as far as wanting to continue on.”

“Growing up in Cowley and Lovell, it was pretty much a given that you played the sport of the season and didn’t think about the other sports during that season,” Tim said. “A lot of us did that. As I got older I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I leaned toward basketball. It became my favorite. But I remember saying how much I loved baseball, and I really did. I would talk baseball as much as basketball.”

Winland grew up playing Little League and Babe Ruth baseball, and in the summer of 1986 he was a key member of Lovell’s state champion American Legion team, playing left and center field and pitching for coach Ron Osborne.

A four-year letterman in track, he was a state qualifier for three seasons and won the high jump at State as a senior. He was named the LHS Male Athlete of the Year that year.

Tim Winland soars to the basket against the Shoshoni Wranglers during his high school career. Winland was a four-sport athlete during his playing career, and later a successful coach.
File photo

In football, he was a quarterback and free safety for coach Tom Holm, and he also punted and kicked for the Bulldogs.

A three-year letterman, Winland was named all-conference for three years as a defensive back (cornerback and later safety) and in his senior year was both an all-conference and all-state quarterback. He passed for more than 2,714 yards in his junior and senior seasons combined, with 25 touchdown passes, and he was also named “Dog of the Year” following his senior season, Five Rivers Conference player of the year and 2A player of the year for Wyoming, along with Pete Gosar of Pinedale.

“It’s quite an accomplishment to throw for that many yards in Wyoming,” he said, “but you have to have great receivers, and I was fortunate to have Joey Mickelson, Brian May, Kelly Spann, Randy Wacker and David Thatch.”

At about 6-2, 165 or 170, Winland was slender, but he loved to hit and “wasn’t afraid to stick his head in there,” Ralph said. He had an accurate arm throwing the football, though not a cannon, Tim added.

“I don’t know if there was a sport I couldn’t do well,” he said, “from tennis to horseshoes. Anything with a racquet or a ball, I could do. I had hand-eye coordination and athleticism, and at times you take those things for granted. It just came natural.”

The skills work together for different sports, he said, noting that, as a free safety, he had the anticipation to snare balls in the air because of his basketball experience, similar to baseball, “where you have to know where the ball’s going when it comes off the bat,” he said. Likewise, his throwing skill proved to be an advantage both as a pitcher and as a quarterback.

A sterling cager

Winland was a four-year letterman in basketball and was named all-conference and all-state his sophomore, junior and senior years. After his senior year he was chosen for the Wyoming-Montana All-Star Game and the Wyoming Coaches Association North-South All-Star Game.

He played junior varsity and suited up for varsity as a freshman in 1982-83 when Lovell was in Class 3A. He then played varsity for the next three years.

Winland said he had a good foundation coming out of middle school thanks to coach Gus Gerhardt, who taught Lovell players the fundamentals of the game.

“Gus was a no-nonsense type of coach where you develop a sense of work ethic and winning. He really pushed those two things and how you carry yourself as a player on the floor,” he said. “He didn’t put up with any showboating or disrespect for another team, no matter who you were and how good you were.

“Gus could be hard on you, but you always knew how much he cared about you and how you represent yourself.”

In high school, Winland played for Ralph for four years.

“People always wonder about situations where fathers and sons play and coach together,” he said. “I have no regrets. I wouldn’t go back and change anything. I loved it. I loved having my dad as my coach.

“He had coached us a little bit in Little League and junior high, so we grew up in a household with that. Just like Gus, Dad pushed us to be the best we could be and instilled a work ethic in me and taught what it would take to be successful at that level.”

During a superb senior season, the Bulldogs were almost unbeatable when healthy. They snapped Wyoming Indian’s 50-game winning streak in December at home, 74-57, then lost to the Chiefs by one point in Ethete in January, 69-68, with an injured Brian May out of the lineup.

The Bulldogs went into the regional tournament in Basin 13-3 overall, 12-2 in the Five Rivers Conference. They stomped Greybull and Shoshoni but fell to the Chiefs 67-62 in the title game — moved to Cody to accommodate the crowd — despite 28 points from Winland, with Thatch sidelined with a bruised tail bone and May still limited with his leg injury.

“Dad came into the locker room with the second-place trophy in his hands and really let us have it,” Winland said. “He said he was so sick and tired of getting second-place trophies. That really made an impression on us. We had another week left, and we needed to have another good week of practice and regroup, he said. It was state championship or bust.”

In those days, the state basketball tournament featured a 12-team bracket, with four “regional” (district) winners getting a first-round bye as play began on Wednesday. As a second-place qualifier, Lovell had to win three games to reach the championship game, and win they did, clobbering Pine Bluffs 69-54, Mountain View 73-45 and Lusk 62-42. The Bulldogs then took it to Wyoming Indian in the title game, winning 66-54.

“We were finally healthy (at State),” Winland said. “The guys got back into a groove and were clicking on all cylinders.”

Not only did Coach Winland notice the determination on the faces of his team, the players felt it, too.

“With it being our senior year for me, Brian, Mike Haskell, Mel McArthur, Rob Croft and Randy Wacker, we were bound and determined to win that game,” Tim said. “I’m not sure there was ever a doubt we were going to win. Everyone was on the same page and had the same mindset. Having everybody healthy was a huge confidence booster for us, too.”

Winland said that team was special: seniors Winland, May, Haskell, McArthur, Croft and Wacker, juniors Thatch, Kelly Spann, Danny Russell and Mike Negro, sophomore Brad Wolvington and freshman Rod Winland.

“We all could run and handle the ball. We’d played together since our sophomore years, especially Brian, Mike and I,” Winland said. “We knew where each other was going to be at any given time on the floor. There was a great feeling of teamwork and unselfishness.”

“It was just a good team,” Ralph Winland said. “They got along really well and played well together. They all knew what their roles were. Brian was quicker than quick, and Mike Haskell was one of the best Lovell big men ever.”

Spann was the point guard, with May as the “two” guard and Winland the other wing. Thatch was a power forward, with Haskell in the middle. McArthur was a force off the bench, and the versatile Croft could fill in for either Thatch or Haskell.

On into coaching

After graduation, Winland moved on to Northwest Community College, where he played basketball for the Trappers and earned an associate degree in science. He went on to the University of Wyoming, earning a bachelor of science degree in life science in December of 1991 with a minor in chemistry and was hired by Rocky Mountain High School in 1992 as a science teacher, coaching both football and basketball for many years. He broke into coaching as an assistant basketball coach for Dave Swanson, taking over as head coach the next season.

As head boys basketball coach for 12 years, Winland led the Grizzlies to a record of 178-107 and Class 2A state championships in 1995, 1997 and 1998, plus a runner-up finish in 1999 and third place in 1994, 2000 and 2001. He was the defensive coordinator for four Rocky Mountain state championship football teams in the 1990s, coaching with Ben Smith.

Winland described his coaching style as intense and said he was a coach who demanded his players’ full attention during the season.

“I learned from Gus and Dad how important the fundamentals of the game are,” he said, noting that he seemed to have the ability of a teacher on the court as well as in the classroom.

“I think I had the ability to get it across to them, the game of basketball,” he said, “and get them to understand the game as
well as I did. By doing that, once the players believe in the system and
what you’re trying to get them to do, not only can they play up to their potential, they can overachieve.

“I had great talent, but we also played against teams with great talent. We had to overachieve quite often.”

Ralph Winland said the success Tim experienced in high school helped him as a coach later.

“The success he had in high school and the teams he played on and how they were successful helped him a great deal,” Ralph said. “He was blessed with a lot of talent at that time at Rocky, and he could get them to
do what they needed to do to be successful, and if they didn’t, they heard about it.”

The conference was very good, Tim said, with Lovell, Greybull, Basin and others fielding strong teams with veteran coaches.

“It was a dogfight among all four of us,” he said. “Everybody had a good team.”

After receiving his master’s degree, Winland was hired as principal at RMHS and also served as athletic director. He is in his 13th year as principal, currently serving as principal for both the middle school and high school. He has served on a number of boards and held numerous positions in education, business, recreation and for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He and wife Teri have two boys, Brady, a student at BYU-Idaho, and Kirby, who is serving an LDS mission in Ohio.

Winland said he is proud to become a member of the hall of fame.

“I‘m very humbled and honored to be a part of the hall of fame fraternity and an athletic tradition that spans more than a century, none of which would be possible without great coaching, unselfish and talented teammates and players I’ve been fortunate to coach,” he said. “I would especially like to thank my family, parents who loved me unconditionally, a size 12 boot that kept me in check when needed, my two brothers Rod and Pat and lovely wife Teri who were always there behind the scenes.”

By David Peck

One comment

  1. Congratulations to Tim! Reading Dave Peck’s profile here brought back a lot of memories for me, as I had the good fortune to help document some of Tim’s athletic career.

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