Coach Wilde honored at gymnasium floor dedication

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Duane Wilde, who began his coaching career in Guttenberg in the 1960s, was recently honored in Palmyra, Wis., during a dedication ceremony naming a newly-refinished gymnasium floor "The Duane Wilde Court." (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

Former Guttenberg "Pirates" coach and mathematics teacher Duane Wilde was recently recognized for his ongoing commitment to high school athletics. A dedication ceremony was held at the Palmyra - Eagle Area School District High School in Palmyra, Wis. The school's recently-refurbished gymnasium floor now bears the name of the legendary coach. 

The "Duane Wilde Court" was dedicated on Friday, Dec. 13. Coach Wilde commented, "Despite the superstition that surrounds that date, there was no bad luck that night!" 

Coach Wilde grew up on a farm in the small rural community of South Wayne, Wis. His father always encouraged participation in athletics. He earned his teaching degree from the University of Wisconsin in Platteville. 

In the fall of 1965 Coach Wilde and his family moved to Guttenberg for his first teaching position. Wilde told The Press, "That first year we moved here, Paul Zhiss, 'Zig,' was the football coach and I was the assistant. I took on the job of coaching the middle school girls and boys basketball teams. Two of my favorite players were Linda and Lorna Hess. Those girls could really play ball." He continued, "The following year the school was delayed in securing a basketball coach for the varsity boys basketball program. I stepped up to the plate and took on the challenge." 

He called to mind, "I became the junior varsity and varsity boys basketball coach and continued to fulfill my commitment to the two middle school teams." He added, "Bear in mind, the seasons were much shorter than they are now, but it was still quite an undertaking. I would have to cancel practice to coach a game. It was a very hectic year!" 

Wilde remained in Guttenberg for five years. During his brief career his varsity team recorded 38 wins and 33 loses and won a conference championship in 1968. He chuckled, "That was the year we came up with the slogan 'Go to state in 68.' We won two ball games, but lost the game that would have gotten us into the finals. I really enjoyed my time in Guttenberg. It became my foundation for coaching." 

"I left in the fall of 1970. I was offered a teaching position in Palmyra, where I am still coaching today. I taught mathematics for a combined 41 years," he noted. 

Wilde became the varsity basketball and assistant football coach for the Palmyra - Eagle Area Panthers.  His wife encouraged him to expand his coaching abilities. He said, "My wife was the one that encouraged me to begin coaching girls fast-pitch softball. I had coached my two sons' basketball teams, and now it was time to coach my two daughters' softball teams. I became the varsity coach for both sports."  

The busy coach took on the challenge of coaching high school golf. "I have always loved to golf. It just made sense to become the golf coach. I coached varsity basketball for 20 years, fast-pitch softball for 14 years and was the golf coach for 23 years. I have been a varsity coach in Palmyra for the past 50 years," he proudly shared. 

His notable Palmyra - Eagle Area Panther career includes an impressive 295 wins and 193 losses in boys varsity basketball, and 182 wins and 73 losses in girls varsity fast-pitch softball. He has recently come out of retirement to coach boys varsity basketball for Palmyra, increasing his record to 302 wins. 

He commented, "I am pretty proud of that record. We had more winning seasons than losing ones. I attribute it to a lot of consistency. You get the kids to buy into that winning tradition. We had six conference championships. In 1979 I took a Palmyra team to the State Championship in Madison." 

Coach Wilde and his wife continue to remain close friends with retired educators June and Paul Zhiss. 

Wilde chuckled, "My hobbies are golf, golf and golf. My mentor is Paul Zhiss." He remembered, "Paul is the one that encouraged me to take up golf. My wife and I went to the bank, borrowed some money, purchased some clubs and joined the country club. Paul and June are still among our closest friends. It's kept me young. I am still pretty active at age 76." 

He concluded, "The dedication was pretty special. The school elected to honor all the championship teams and invited the players back. There were six boys basketball teams, six girls fast-pitch softball teams and two championship golf teams. It was an exciting event. I enjoyed seeing all the former teammates. It brought back a lot of great memories."

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