Editorial note: We're hitting the road to tell high school basketball stories throughout Kentucky, uncovering the gems of the gyms in all 16 regions. This is the 10th installment of veteran high school sports reporter Jason Frakes' tour of the commonwealth.
He was named the boys basketball coach at Wayne County High School in 1986 and immediately set the path for a program with just one regional championship (1943) in its history.
That 1986-87 team started with nine seniors on the roster. By January, only one was left.
“It’s not so much his way or the highway, that sort of thing,” said Allen Burchett, the one senior who made it through that first season with Woods and is now an assistant coach with the program. “But it’s an expectation that he is trying to create.”
Now in his 34th season with the Cardinals, Woods is Wayne County basketball.
The court and gymnasium at the school are named for him. He’s led the Cardinals to nine 12th Region championships and a runner-up finish in the 1989 state tournament, falling to Pleasure Ridge Park 75-73 in the final.
As Wayne County (18-12) prepares to face Danville (21-12) on Thursday in the first round of the 12th Region Tournament at Pulaski County, Woods is trying to win a regional title in a fifth decade (1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s).
He’s also the winningest active high school basketball coach in the state, with a 760-415 record over 37 seasons at Wayne County and Corbin according to Kentucky High School Athletic Association records. The 760 victories rank sixth in state history — behind Scott County’s Billy Hicks, PRP’s Dale Mabrey, Central’s William Kean, North Hardin’s Ron Bevars and Clay County’s Bobby Keith — and don’t include 93 other wins as the head coach at Powell Valley in Tennessee.
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Coach Woods during the interview
Reprinted with permission from the Louisville Courier-Journal. Written by Jason Frakes