Jerry Doerger, Clermont Northeastern head boys varsity basketball coach, achieved his 500th career victory last Tuesday night (Feb. 20) as the Rockets dominated the visiting New Richmond Lions 67-37 in a Southern Buckeye Conference American Division contest.
The countdown to 500 wins poster on the wall close to the Blue and Gold’s bench was finally completed and Doerger was very happy.
“I enjoyed the entire countdown, but I’m happy to get it behind me,” said Doerger who is in his fourth year at the helm of Clermont Northeastern’s male cage program.
Doerger is a 1954 graduate of Roger Bacon High School where he, not surprisingly, was a member of the Spartans’ basketball program. After high school graduation he served in the army and then attended Xavier University from where he received his college diploma.
Doerger became the head coach of the Crusader basketballers from the 1966-70 seasons and compiled a record of 71-34. In 1975 he became the head coach at McNicholas High School, that at the time was the smallest school and the only co-ed school in the Greater Catholic League. Even though he had the smallest number of male athletes from which to choose he led the Rockets to a mark of 380-262 through the 2002-2003 season. In those 28 seasons he mentored the Green and White to five Ohio Final Four appearances in Columbus. He had a tough time parting from the Rockets so beginning with the 2004-04 school year he began coaching another fleet of Rockets, these were from Clermont Northeastern.
When pointed out to him the similarity of the two Rocket programs, Doerger said, "You know until you mentioned that to me I had never really thought about it. But it was convenient and inexpensive for me now that I think back on it. I already had all the Rocket clothing, I just had to change my green items for blue." The gold color is common to both school's athletic programs.
After Tuesday night's victory, Doerger is 49-35 in Owensville and has a total record of 500 wins and 330 losses, which accounts for having won more than 60 percent of his games.
Doerger had made a deal with his Northeastern players during the summer of '06 when he was unimpressed with their play. He figured he had no worries and nothing to lose when he commented he would get his hair cut into a Mohawk if he won his 500th game the 2006-07 season. The team needed to win 14 games and their coach felt certain that they would not be able to do this. Surprise! Entering the Division II Sectional Tournament, CNE is 14-6 overall and was second only, behind Goshen, in the Southern Buckeye Conference American Division with a standard of 11-3.
A wild celebration took place among hundreds of CNE supporters who stayed after the game. And Doerger kept his word to his team. His hair was cut into a Mohawk by senior members (Mike Clark, Dave Colwell, Tom McKeehan, Zach Slusher, Cory Scott, and Brandon Tackett) of the Rockets and a professional hair stylist. The New Richmond game marked Senior Night on the Rockets' launching pad.
"Since this is my fourth year at Northeastern this is my first group of seniors I've been with all four years so I figured I'm a senior with the seniors if you know what I mean."
Doerger reflected upon his years of success and recalled his tie-ins with Clermont County and her athletes.
Mike Ramey was one of his biggest stars who lead McNicholas to the state tournament. He was a New Richmond resident. The 1994-95 team that went to the state final four had four Clermont countians among the starting five - Chris Wilson, Dave Gardner, Adam Smith and Keith Zurmehly, most of whom had attended St. Louis School in Owensville.
"My first year at McNick, we played at Northeastern. Jerry Wiesenhahn was the head coach here then and was doing a tremendous job. When we got ready to leave on the bus for the game I had no idea where Clermont Northeastern was," said Doerger.
One of Doerger's very capable assistants at McNick for a short time was Craig Mazzaro, a 1978 graduate of Amelia and a CCL all-star cager. After leaving Doerger's staff he returned to his alma mater and turned the Barons into one of Greater Cincinnati's most consistently winning programs.
The Rockets' taskmaster feels he has coached a good group of basketball players at Northeastern. Two of those he mentioned were Corey Moore, "a coach's player, a good kid and a solid leader," and Brad Hosler who began his prep cage career at Milford Christian Academy before transferring to CNE. Today he is one of the standouts of the University of Cincinnati Clermont College cagers who have been ranked number-one in the nation in their division.
Being a man from the city, Doerger recognized early in his career that the city basketball players and the young men who played in the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) were ahead of the Clermont County kids in training and experience.
"They were more advanced early in the CYO, a lot of it because they played on a lot more competitive level."
But he has good news for Clermont Northeastern and Clermont County high school basketball fans. "Basketball is definitely getting better out here. Today there are camps, summer training, and summer leagues. One of the advantages of the Clermont County athletes is that the kids play ball together for more years and know each other better. In the GCL schools there are more players to choose from, but they come from more schools and do not know each other as well and only play together for four years."
In reflection, the 500th victory meant a great deal to Doerger. "This was a big victory for all of my players and managers through all the years. I feel some of them are more to me like my sons and brothers."
The Clermont Northeastern experience? "It was a very neat, enjoyable night and the post game celebration was tremendous. I want to thank an awful lot of people. The Northeastern people have been super to me. I've been happy here. I made a good decision when I decided to coach at Northeastern."