James Cook: McBain's consistency a model for basketball programs

Mar. 17—There was a lot of blaming going around Thursday.

McBain lost a state semifinal game that the Ramblers admittedly had plenty of opportunities to win.

Head coach Bruce Koopman took the blame first, saying in the postgame press conference he should have taken a timeout in the final minute of regulation.

"This is all on me," Koopman said after the 51-48 overtime loss to Niles Brandywine in the Division 3 state semifinals. "I should have called a timeout when we got the ball with like 30 seconds to go and set my team up. I had two of them, and I should have done better. ... It doesn't take anything away from these guys, because they're great."

Junior point guard Ben Rodenbaugh was having none of it.

"He's so hard on himself," Rodenbaugh said. "He just took the blame for that. He can't control that, and I understand what he was trying to do. I'm just so grateful for the ability to play with him. I got to watch all my older brothers play under him. Just to get the chance to see a Hall of Fame coach and play under him, it's amazing. I see why he's a Hall of Famer."

Not more than a few minutes earlier, Rodenbaugh put the blame on himself.

That's a team there, folks.

They won't even let each other take the blame for a loss.

Koopman has hinted throughout the playoffs at the possibility of retiring after 30 impressively successful years coaching the Ramblers' varsity program. He's already semi-retired at the school, no longer teaching physical education and only instructing wood shop classes. He said after Thursday's semifinal that he'd wait until after spring break to make a decision on his future.

The decision that's already been handed down is that he's one heck of a basketball coach.

In 30 years, his teams produced 20 or more victories 11 times. Only twice did they finish under .500. Throw in 21 Highland Conference titles, 20 district crowns, eight regional championships, five Final Four berths and a state championship, and that's quite the resume.

Add in another 263 girls basketball wins and another Final Four appearance, and you've got 812 victories and six times being one of the last four teams left playing basketball that year.

Koopman did four seasons of coaching the boys and girls basketball teams simultaneously, including as recently as 2022-23.

Watching the Ramblers through the ups and downs of a long postseason run, some of the things you didn't see were ones that stood out.

Nobody questioned Koopman; what he said was law. Players didn't bicker. Some seniors sat on the bench and rarely played, yet didn't complain — a bit of a rarity these days. The Ramblers didn't get out of line or do anything to hinder the team.

"I can't imagine playing without him," Rodenbaugh said. "I've had him all high school. He's taught me everything I know, and to not have him next year, it'd be tough. But I'd be happy for him if he got a big stay in Florida all year."

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