COAL TOWNSHIP - Mike Klembara's first season as head coach of Lourdes' girls basketball program was 1969.

The Red Raiders finished 1-11.

Things have changed considerably since that inauspicious start.

Five years later Klembara won 20 games for the first time, and the next year culminated in the first of his 11 District 4 championships.

And this past season in the District 4 title game win over Sayre, the venerable coach won his 600th game. He added two more wins in the PIAA state playoffs and on Wednesday his accomplishment was celebrated.

"I work for a great administration and school," Klembara said. "I have nothing but love for the people I've coached and coached with, and I've been blessed with talent around me and good health so that I can continue to do this."

Klembara won 77 games in his first seven-year stint with Lourdes between 1969 and 1976. He added 31 more wins at Hazleon in 1978-81.

After taking a couple years away from basketball, he started his current run at Lourdes in 1989.

The Red Raiders won 494 games over the next 24 seasons. Included in that run were two appearances in the state championship game and a title in 1994.

The championship culminated back-to-back years with 30-plus wins and two appearances in the championship.

"The two state championship games that

were in back to back years, we lost one and won one, obviously stand out," Klembara said.

And there are other years that stick out as special for Klembara.

"In 2000, when we finished third in the district and made it to the Eastern final before losing to Nativity, who went on to win the state title, was special," he said.

And then there was this year. It was the Red Raiders' fifth straight District 4 championship, an amazing accomplishment for a team no one where to set the bar for before the season.

"And of course, this year. No one ever foresaw this year's accomplishments," Klembara said. "No one thought we'd have this type of year."

The success is a testament to the hard work of the players, but also the system preached by Klembara and his staff.

"I think every coach evaluates their talent at the beginning of the year," he said. "We felt we weren't going to line up every night and score 60. We were going to have to play great defense and the athletes were going to have to make plays."

Klembara said he wouldn't be anywhere near 600 if it weren't for one person, who coincidentally never donned a jersey for him - his wife, Jane.

"My wife deserves an awful lot of credit," Klembara said. "I've told people that behind every successful man is a surprised mother-in-law. Through it all, my wife has been very supportive."

Besides his own players and assistants, Klembara wanted to credit all the other coaches he's been around.

In the end, 600, or 602 as it stands now, is nice, but Klembara counts all the young athletes he's had a hand in helping throughout the years.

"It's important to me to see the young people that I've coached who have gone on to become teachers, doctors, laywers or more," Klembara said. "And there are students who didn't know yet what they wanted to do and I've been able to help direct them.

"Occassionally I still get phone calls from players who are now 30 or 35 years old who want to say thanks." Years W L

1969-70 1 11

70-71 6 4

71-72 8 7

72-73 11 5

73-74 13 6

74-75 20 3

75-76 18 7*

78-79 17 9**

79-80 4 19**

80-81 10 16**

89-90 10 12

90-91 17 8

91-92 24 7

92-93 31 3

93-94 30 4

94-95 26 4*

95-96 26 3

96-97 17 8

97-98 23 6

98-99 27 3*

99-00 26 3*

00-01 26 6

01-02 19 10*

02-03 22 7*

03-04 11 13

04-05 18 11

05-06 16 14

06-07 8 16

07-08 15 14

08-09 17 9*

09-10 22 5*

10-11 19 8*

11-12 22 4*

12-13 22 6*

Totals 602 270

*District 4 champion

**Years at Hazleton