Beyond the hardwood: Whipple’s legacy proves more than just the game of basketball
IRMO, SC - As he sits in his office filled with awards, trophies and pictures of previous teams, Irmo High School boys’ basketball head coach Tim Whipple has not had much time to reflect on all the success he’s achieved over the years. He is driven by it and, let’s face it, he has to be as he is in the midst of his 36th season at the helm of the Yellow Jackets.
“I’m not sure why people get into coaching necessarily,” Whipple laughed. “For me it was in my blood. My brother, who is eight years older than me was a coach, and I just remember as a kid, I would study how to play the game. The relationships that you build, and the satisfaction that you get from working with young people—seeing them progress and become better not just as players, but as people. That’s what our program is about. Teaching them life lessons that stretches further than just basketball.”
On November 30, Whipple became just the fourth coach in state history to reach 700 career wins as a head coach in Irmo’s 65-32 victory over Newberry. Never one to take credit for the accomplishments, Whipple immediately deferred to others. “We have reaped the benefits of building a program here at Irmo High School,” Whipple said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have some very talented kids over the years, but more importantly, tremendous coaching staffs that prepare those players each step along the way so that they can win varsity basketball games.”
Whipple’s dedication to his team has meant everything to him, but his family’s dedication to him means so much more. As he reflected on all the nights spent at the gym and “the last car leaving the parking lot to head home,” the head man opened up about what makes him who he is today. “To be successful in this profession, you’ve got to have a great family—a great wife that gives you the opportunity to do so,” Whipple said. “I’m lucky to have both.” Whipple’s wife Valerie spent many years as a guidance counselor and his two daughters Kate and Kristen both currently serve as teachers.
Aside from winning games, one other aspect has remained constant with Whipple’s teams throughout his tenure with the Yellow Jackets: treating others the right way. “I have really learned how to carry myself because of Coach,” senior forward Noah Jenkins said. “He teaches us respect for ourselves, one another and others. It goes beyond the game of basketball. Of course him being around so long, you learn the game from him, but he’s different. Not every coach do you learn how to become a better person from. That’s who Coach Whipple is.”
Jenkins is right. Whipple is indeed different. Despite of everything to his name, he won’t enjoy the success because “there’s always tomorrow.” Having that approach has allowed him to walk the sidelines as long as he has. The one thing he does enjoy? Seeing his impact on current and former players’ lives. “When I get the letters, when I get a call, a text, a Facebook message from players, that’s when I smile,” Whipple said as he teared up. “That’s when I get to enjoy success. At the moment, I never do. It’s a blessing and a curse. But those are the moments that bring joy to me when I realize I have made a difference in a young man’s life.”