Waubonsee's Heiss reaches another milestone
Waubonsee Community College's Dave Heiss recently reached another coaching milestone. On Feb. 7 his Chiefs' and Prairie State College engaged in a frenetic, high-scoring battle from the opening tip until the final buzzer. In the end the Chiefs made five of six free throws in the final minute to pull out a 113-108 victory for Heiss' 600th career coaching win. Among active NJCAA men's basketball coaches, Heiss is the 11th coach to reach this plateau.
Over his 32-year coaching career at Waubonsee Heiss has compiled a .597 winning percentage, averaging 18.5 wins per season. He has had 16 squads win 20 or more games, and has guided the Chiefs to the Region IV crown and a berth into the NJCAA Division II National Tournament five times. Heiss' teams have captured 11 Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference (ISCC) titles, with his current crew tied for first in pursuit of another crown.
In Heiss' milestone 600th win Prairie State jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the opening two minutes of play. The Chiefs quickly caught up and took an 11-9 lead as the pace of play picked up. By the time the halftime buzzer sounded Waubonsee jogged off to the locker room ahead 61-54. The pace the second half only slowed a little as the game eventually featured eight ties and a dozen lead changes. A nip and tuck affair ensued throughout the second half as the teams traded baskets until the final minute. The Chiefs then sealed the victory from the foul line resulting in a celebratory water bucket dousing for Heiss from his players.
Waubonsee's bench outscored the Pioneers' reserves 37-7 as the Chiefs placed five players in double digits, including three over 20 points. Germaine Roebuck paced the Chiefs with 22 points to go along with eight rebounds. Tyrone Carey tallied 21 points and dished out nine assists. Alec Goetz also booked 21 points and passed out six assists. Deon Ward came off the bench to score 17 points. Jacob Niesman added a collegiate career high of 11 points and recorded four steals, while Demetrius Ewing nearly gave the Chiefs a sixth player in double-digits with nine points.
A balanced attack has been a trademark of Heiss' success over the years. Accordingly, off the court recognition has followed his on court achievements. He has been inducted into the NJCAA Region IV Hall of Fame, the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Hall of Fame, the Aurora West High School Athletic Hall of Fame, the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference Hall of Fame and the NJCAA Hall of Fame. Heiss has been selected as the IBCA and the Region IV Basketball Coach of the Year five times, while the ISCC has tabbed him with that honor ten times. In 2008 he became the ISCC's all-time leader in career wins and currently has 273, which is 93 more than the second place coach on that list.
Off the court Heiss is a full-time faculty member in Waubonsee's physical education department and in 1996 was an instrumental player in the establishment of the school's S.T.A.R. program, a ground-breaking student/athlete academic assistance and monitoring system. Heiss has also been Waubonsee's head golf coach the last 25 years, leading the Chiefs to five conference titles and a pair of Region IV Division II titles.
Mild mannered on the links, he is completely the opposite while coaching his basketball teams. Heiss is often vocal, fiery and animated during a game. He rarely sits while he shouts, encourages, fumes, cajoles and climbs up and down a virtual ladder of emotions as he tries to get the most from his team. Similarly, as a player Heiss was a cerebral, intense competitor, with limited athleticism who worked diligently to get the most out of his 6'5" frame.
In 1980, Heiss was an All-Upstate Eight performer at Aurora West High School when his team finished third in the state. He went on to play at Eastern Wyoming Junior College where he led the NJCAA Region IX in scoring as a sophomore. Heiss then transferred to Bemidji State University in Minnesota where he was All-Northern Sun Conference his final two years. Heiss was invited to the Utah Jazz rookie and free agent camp in 1985 and played for the Jazz' rookie team in the Pro-Am League that summer. Also that summer, Waubonsee Athletics Manager Dave Randall and Dean of Students Paul Bosse took a chance on the 23-year-old Heiss for his first coaching job leading Waubonsee for the 1985-86 season. It's been his only coaching job since, but that wasn't his plan.
"Ultimately, the goal was to be leading an NCAA Division I program," Heiss said. But for any number of reasons, the timing never seemed right. "It finally hit me, and almost became spiritual over the years, that this is where I was meant to be," he stated. "What I've enjoyed the most is probably the relationships I've developed. Many players still stay in touch. It's a great platform to teach. They're part of the family," declares Heiss. "Even guys who don't go on to play at a four-year school, to see them graduate and move on to productive careers is very gratifying."