Five. Hundred. Wins. That sure is a lot of wins in a coaching career. For many coaches, that 500-win mark is the pinnacle of their career. University of Kentucky Head Coach, Adolph Rupp, is the fastest to reach the 500-win milestone as he reached it in 583 games. That is a staggering .858-win percentage across 23 seasons. Each level is unique, but 500 wins is still a tough milestone! It takes sustained success for a coach to reach it during their career.
There may be no other program in the NAIA who can match the sustained success that Indiana Wesleyan has had over the past 18 years. Especially when you are a NAIA power like the Wildcats are and get everyone’s best shot each and every game. What the Wildcats have accomplished since Coach Greg Tonagel took the reins in 2005-2006 is remarkable:
- 3 National Championships (2014, 2016, 2018)
- 13 Regular Conference Titles
- 5 Conference Tournament Titles
- 13 trips to the NAIA Round of 16 or greater
- 8 30-win seasons
- Has never finished outside of the Top 4 in the league.
- Has gone 15 straight seasons finishing no worse than 2nd in the league.
With Indiana Wesleyan’s loss in the Round of 32 last season, Coach Tonagel ended the season with a career record of 499-128. Which means with one more win, Coach T will earn career win #500. While 500 wins is a great milestone to hit, one more win, would also make him the youngest (Age 42) men’s basketball coach to break the 500-win plateau. Below, you will see that in 2015, Billy Donovan became the second coach in NCAA D1 to reach 500 wins prior to age 50. Bob Knight currently owns the record with 500 wins at age 48.
That’s not all though. One more win for Coach Tonagel and the Wildcats, depending on when that win happens, should also put Coach T ahead of former Bethel (IN) Head Coach and NAIA Hall of Famer, Mike Lightfoot, as the fastest coach in the NAIA to 500 wins. Coach Lightfoot, unofficially, hit his 500th win at 659 games (500-159). With Coach Tonagel sitting at 627 games (499-128), as long as IWU doesn’t go winless over their next 32 games, Coach T will take over as the fastest coach to 500 wins in NAIA Men’s Basketball history.
Coach Tonagel most likely doesn’t care about those records. He is a humble coach, who isn’t about his own personal accolades (he has plenty we could go into more detail on). He just finished his Doctor of Ministry in Transformational Leadership from the Wesley Seminary and has a coaching mission: “To raise a generation of men who will trade the pursuit of “me” for the pursuit of “three.” Like most great coaches, Coach puts his focus on his program and players first. That will be the focus for them as the Wildcards start the season this Friday, October 27th at Indiana Tech in the CL/WHAC Challenge. In their first 8 games of the season the Wildcats will face off against seven teams who qualified for the NAIA National Tournament last season. Five of those teams won their leagues last year and we could see four or five of those teams inside the Top 25 polls when the coaches poll is released on Wednesday! It’s a tough road as Coach T is getting his team tested early! His focus will surely be on getting his team prepared for each game, but nonetheless, history awaits, and when it happens, it will be a fun experience for all!