Legendary South boys basketball coach dies at 87

Wayne Wiseman coached one of Clark County’s great teams

South High School boys basketball coaching legend Wayne Wiseman died on Friday in Springfield. He was 87.

Wiseman coached one of the greatest basketball teams in Clark County history. The South Wildcats finished 23-1 in the 1983-84 season, compiling an undefeated 20-0 record in the regular season.

“That group, they really were well-knitted together,” said C. Duane Baker, who served as South’s athletic director from 1981-95. “They went onto the court to play and to win. It wasn’t, ‘Let’s just talk about it.’ It was, ‘Let’s do it.’ Those kids got along well together, too. Fans loved those kids. We had sellouts where we had to close the doors three or four times during that year.”

“That year was more than just winning,” said Jayson Gee, one of the stars of the team. “It was the relationship we had with the community. It was the faculty engagement. It was the student engagement.”

» RELATED: Gee credits Wiseman for coaching career

Wiseman had battled cancer and other health problem for some time, Baker said. Gee said Wiseman suffered a heart attack.

Wiseman is survived by his wife of 67 years, Patricia, his sons Wayne and Mark (Tammy), of Springfield, and Rick (Audrey), of Franklin, Tenn., and two grandsons: Tyler Wiseman, of Charlotte, N.C., and Mitchell Wiseman of Franklin, Tenn.

Wiseman inspired Gee to get into coaching and gave him one of his first experiences, asking him to sit on the bench during a South game while Gee was on break during his sophomore year at the University of Charleston

Gee, who joined John Brannen's staff with the Cincinnati Bearcats in the spring, visited Wiseman several times this year and saw him again earlier this month after the Wisemans' house burned down. The home in Moorefield Township was destroyed in August.

“I got to say goodbye and just love on him,” Gee said.

Gee described Wiseman as a second dad and said he called him on every Father’s Day. He plans to do the eulogy at Wiseman’s funeral Thursday.

“I’m looking forward to honoring Coach Wiseman and thankful to be asked,” Gee said. “He coached a lot of players but I can’t imagine there’s anyone he impacted more than me.”

Wiseman, who was inducted into the Ohio Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1990, coached at South from 1964-87, compiling a record of 329-156. He had previous coaching stops at Oak Hill and Northwestern High School. His overall record at all three schools was 441-210. He also served as secretary/treasurer for the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association for 33 years.

Wiseman returned to South’s Tiffany Gymnasium for the final game between North and South in 2008. The schools merged the following school year into Springfield High School. Wiseman called it a great place to play.

“It was a good atmosphere, and we had great crowds,” he said then. “Visiting schools realized that, and they didn’t want to come to South to play because of the support we had from the students and the public. It was just a great atmosphere for high school sports.”

» LOOKING BACK: Remembering South’s greatest team

One former South player who remembers that atmosphere well is Jim Scoby. He played for Wiseman from 1972-74 and then coached on his staff for five seasons, including the 1983-84 season. Scoby called Wiseman the ultimate competitor.

“He was so good and loving even though he was a tough guy on the outside,” Scoby said. “He was one of those Hollywood figures, like a Humphrey Bogart type guy — cool guy, always dressed really well, man of few words. He is the coolest dude I’ve ever been around.”

Prior to his coaching career, Wiseman attended Waterloo High School in southeast Ohio. He was a 1950 graduate. Waterloo won state championships in 1934 and 1935. The team was known as the Waterloo Wonders. Wiseman got to know the players on those teams when he was in high school and represented them when they were inducted into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

“They were very outstanding as a team,” Wiseman told the Sports Time Machine podcast in 2012. “There’s no question. My parents told me I went to all the games, but I was too young to remember it.”

After high school, Wiseman played for one of the most famous college basketball teams in history. In 1952-53, Rio Grande College went 39-0 at the NAIA level. Clarence “Bevo” Francis averaged 48.3 points per game.

The team was inducted into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. Wiseman said then his job as point guard was easy in college: Get the ball to Francis.

“Unlike some teams I watch today, it was a team,” Wiseman said. “Everybody knew their role and played their role. Consequently, no one cared who scored. Of course, Bevo was going to do it most of the time, and that was fine with us as long as we were winning ballgames.”

A visitation will be held from 4-7 p.m. Wednesday at Richards, Raff & Dunbar Memorial Home, which also will host funeral services at 11 a.m. Thursday. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for remembrances to be sent to Asbury United Methodist Church in North Hampton.

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