Dick Peth has devoted his life to basketball.
His passion for the sport was honored Oct. 5 in Wisconsin Dells when Peth was inducted into the Wisconsin High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Peth, a 1975 graduate of Tomah High School and head men’s basketball coach coach at Wartburg College, said it was an emotional evening.
“I always get a little chill in my spine coming back to Wisconsin,” he said. “I was extremely humbled and extremely grateful for all the opportunities provided to me when I was a youngster growing up.”
Peth compiled the most impressive basketball resume of anyone who ever attended Tomah High School. He made the varsity in Tomah as a freshman and was first team all-conference his sophomore, junior and senior years under head coach Joe Dobson.
In the 1974-75 season, he was selected Coulee Region Tri-State Player of the Year and first team all-state. He scored 1,331 points in Tomah and ranks second in the La Crosse Tribune’s list of all-time boys basketball players in the area.
Peth credits the coaching and mentoring he received in Tomah.
“We were able to travel and be exposed to quality teams across the state,” Peth said. “It opened our eyes to the level of competition.”
It turned out his basketball journey was just beginning. He was recruited by coach Lute Olson to play at the University of Iowa, where he lettered in both basketball and baseball. He was co-captain of the 1979 squad that won the Big Ten title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
It was during his final year at Iowa when he decided that basketball would be his career.
“My last year of college I was in the business school and switched to over to physical education,” Peth said. “I had that passion for basketball that I couldn’t give up.”
He became assistant coach at the University of Denver in 1985 and was promoted to head coach at age 29. He posted a record of 221-123 at Denver before taking the job at Wartburg in Waverly, Iowa, in 1997.
His record at Wartburg is 229-141 and includes three conference championships and a coach of the year honor in 2005.
Unlike many coaches, Peth hasn’t been forced to put his family through multiple coaching stops.
“We’ve been here (in Waverly) a while,” Peth said. “I have to feel fortunate not having to jump from place to place.”
He and his wife, Maria, have two children. Their son Derek lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and daughter Rachel attends Northern Iowa University.
After 477 career victories, Peth doesn’t have retirement anywhere on his radar. Last year’s team posted a 15-12 record and has two of its top three scorers returning. Wartburg opens its 2013-14 season Friday and makes a trip to Wisconsin Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at the UW-Stout Tournament.
He encouraged young players to focus and work hard.
“Don’t ever give up on your dreams and work your tail off,” he said. “Take advantage of your opportunities.”