Howie Dickenman will soon hit the 200-win mark as coach of the Central Connecticut men's basketball team.
He is 199-169 after Saturday's 91-78 win at Fairleigh Dickinson. The first win? Nov. 23, 1996 vs. St. Francis (Pa.), 66-57. He started 3-0 that season, when the Blue Devils were in the Mid-Continent Conference. Central finished 8-19 and was 4-22 the next season. The Blue Devils are now in the NEC and have made it to three NCAA Tournaments under Dickenman.
"I was coming up the back stairs, where many years ago I made that trip with short pants, knee socks and Converse sneakers of canvas. I might have even had an old-fashioned kneepad on," Dickenman said at the time. "But I was really focused on beating St. Francis because I thought this was a team we could beat. And it would be nice to start the season in a victorious manner."
Now, more than 12 years later, Dickenman remembers a story that coaches can relate to. After the game, a player's mother hugged him, saying he was a great coach. As the season wore on, the player wasn't getting the same playing time. Guess what? He wasn't such a great coach any longer.
Before going to Central, Dickenman had spent the previous 14 seasons as an assistant, then associate head coach at UConn. Former UConn coaches Dee Rowe and Dom Perno were at Dickenman's debut, as were Dave Leitao, Karl Hobbs and Tom Moore, then on the Huskies' staff. Athletic director Lew Perkins and associate athletic director Jeff Hathaway also watched the game. Leitao, Hobbs and Moore are now Division I head coaches; Perkins is the AD at Kansas and Hathaway is the AD at UConn.
Dickenman is where he always wanted to be.
Asked last week if he would ever leave, there was no hesitation.
"No," he said, "this is my home. There is a bond at Central; my best friends are from my days at Central. . . . Central is the type of place where everyone knows someone who went to Central."
He was also quick to deliver credit to all his assistants over the years, from the current ones to those who have moved on.
"The head coach is only as good as those he surrounds himself with," Dickenman said.