Major milestone for Magruder coach

Dan Harwood quietly just keeps adding to his resume.

The longtime Magruder High School basketball coach passed another milestone last week when he won his 500th career game. Outside of Derwood (MD), his accomplishment drew little attention.

But it bears noting, even if most in the local prep basketball world remain focused on the schools in the WCAC.

Up in Montgomery County, where Harwood operates, high school basketball doesn’t matter as much as it once did to the outside world. From 1969-79, county schools brought home 13 state titles. It took county schools another 30 years to win their next dozen crowns – although they did have an exceptional run of five straight Class 4A titles from 2006-2010.

In that sense, perhaps Harwood doesn’t have the platform necessary to earn him the kind of accolades he’s due. County basketball isn’t as good from top to bottom as it’s been in years past. But his accomplishments stack up against anyone’s in county and state high school history.

Harwood won two state titles in the Maryland’s largest classification – in 2001 and 2012 – with the Colonels dropping just one game in those two seasons combined. That’s as many titles as county legends Gene Doane (Blair) and John Barrett (Springbrook) won during their careers.

Only two coaches in state history – Blair’s David Carrasco in the 1950s and Springbrook’s Tom Crowell from 2008-10 – have won three titles in the state’s largest classification.

Like the squads coached by Crowell, Carrasco, Doane and Barrett, Harwood’s Magruder teams have become a fixture in the state tournament. Aside from the two titles, his teams reached the state finals in 2003, 2007 and 2013, bowing in the state semifinals in 2002 and 2011.

You couldn’t find anyone more steeped in Montgomery County basketball tradition. He’s in his 30th season of coaching, his 26th at Magruder. He’s been around so long that the school he played for – Peary – doesn’t even exist any more.

From Peary, he moved on to a sparkling JUCO career at Montgomery College in Rockville (MD). After that, he took his talents to Boston University, where he played for another young head coach who would go on to some measure of success, Rick Pitino.

“He taught me to believe in myself and was definitely a big influence on me,” Harwood once said. “We both share a great passion for the game and he always said you have to have high expectations of yourself and your players.”

Harwood actually began his head coaching career at Seneca Valley in 1986, when he succeeded Doane as coach of the Screaming Eagles. He ultimately found a home at Magruder, where he’s been since 1990. Since taking over, he’s coached both of his own boys and a ton of other people’s sons, too.

He nearly got caught up in the obsessions over the WCAC himself, accepting the Good Counsel coaching job in 2004. But when it came right down to it, he couldn’t make the jump. He called school officials and told them he’d be staying at Magruder.

And why not? He’d built something there. His teams always played the same way – forcing the tempo, shooting lots of 3-pointers and defending like crazy. Clearly, he learned a lot from Pitino.

But it’s not just a system he has at Magruder; it’s a program. He’s got his own basketball camp, so kids who grow up in Magruder’s boundaries first become acquainted with the program in grade school. Harwood holds pep rallies at the two middle schools that feed into Magruder in an attempt to foster even greater excitement and loyalty for his program. It generally works. His teams win, the Magruder gym is full on Tuesday and Friday nights and everybody’s into it.

“I’ll tell you one thing,” he once said in an interview, “Where ever I’m coaching, I’m going to make sure we play in front of full gyms and play a style that players and fans will enjoy.”

There are a plenty of folks delighted that he’s still doing it at Magruder.

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