Stan Bonewitz's legacy started with a group called the “Wild Bunch.”They were five East Central players from about 30 years ago who didn't have the size and skill of starters, but had the energy and passion that matched their coach.He'd put them in for a couple minutes each quarter, and the Wild Bunch played at a frantic pace. They attacked on defense, took quick shots on offense and challenged conventional high school basketball.East Central fans were hooked, and the style of play soon became the Hornets' identity.
Bonewitz's style was wildly successful with a 708-432 career record as a head coach, including 539 victories in 24 seasons at East Central before he retired in 2005. He will be inducted into the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame on Feb. 10 of 2012.
Known for a full-court press defense and an uptempo offense, the Hornets led the city in scoring 12 times under Bonewitz. “The way we ran, other teams felt like we had 30 or 40 guys on our bench,” former East Central star Tony Terrell said. Terrell led East Central to Bonewitz's first of three state tournament appearances in 1987-88. He also scored 62 points in a game that season, a single-game city record that still stands.
Bonewitz also reached the state semifinals in 1994 and his greatest season came in 1994-95, when he led the Hornets to the Class 5A state championship with a 35-0 record. The championship team was led by his son, Stan Bonewitz Jr. The Hornets averaged 108.8 points per game. It's still the area team single-season scoring record.
On the morning of East Central's 1995 state championship game, fans and family members were shooting around with Hornets players at East Central's gym. “Before Stan, you could shoot a cannon off in the gym and you might not hit anybody,” said longtime East Central fan Denis Bartleson, who has attended most Hornets games for the past 40 years. “He energized the community. Everybody was waiting for Tuesday and Friday.” One Friday game against Churchill in 1987 was so packed that it had to be shown on a closed-circuit TV in an adjacent gym for the overflow crowd. East Central's open gyms also became events on their own, with Spurs and UTSA players showing up for pickup games. “We may be out of the way,” Stan Bonewitz Jr. said of the school that's almost 20 miles from downtown. “But for a while, East Central was the center of basketball in the city.”
“I think he took a lot more criticism for his style of play than he ever let on,” Stan Bonewitz Jr. said. “People called it street ball, but it's a lot more complex. My response was always, ‘If you don't think it's basketball, then beat us.'”Stan Bonewitz Jr. went on to star at Texas Tech and is head coach at Concordia University in Austin, where he coaches the same style of play as his father. Concordia was second among Division III schools in the nation in scoring last season.
Looking for a way to adjust to his personnel and his newly renovated gym, the Stan Bonewitz Center, current coach Jeff Sweet decided to switch to Bonewitz's style as well this season. The Hornets are 17-6 this season and second in the city in scoring, averaging 76 points a game.
Bonewitz's legacy remains. East Central is on its way to being a Wild Bunch again.
Stan Bonewitz works part-time as a starter at the Quarry Golf Course now, where golfers often recognize him as the man behind one of the city's greatest high school basketball programs. It is messing with Bonewitz's job performance a little, though.
“I love talking about basketball, but I have to keep it quick,” Bonewitz said. “These guys want to talk, but they're next on the tee.” There will be plenty of time for stories about East Central's glory days at the ceremony at the Alamodome this Friday.
“Every former player I've talked to wants to be at the ceremony for Stan,” Coach Jeff Sweet said. “For a lot of them, the first response was ‘it's about time.”
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