FORT WAYNE – Some call him Pop, and some call him Papa. By any endearing nickname, Wayne Kreiger has earned the respect of the Canterbury girls basketball team in just one season as the head coach.
Taking over for his son, Scott, as the leader of the defending Class A state champion Cavaliers, the Hall of Fame coach has the program just one step away from another state finals appearance, which would be their fifth in six years, with a semistate game against Lafayette Central Catholic on Saturday.
That’s what my (sons) call me, Pop,’ Wayne said. When I would come in the gym (last year as an assistant with the Cavs) Scott would always acknowledge me with Hi, Pop.’ That’s how that got started. The kids picked up on it.
Some don’t feel comfortable from that standpoint and some do, but I have not had any difficulty with the kids that do.
Scott, who won four state championships in 14 years coaching the girls team, took on a new challenge this year by taking over the Canterbury boys program. So in stepped Wayne, 70, the longtime Columbia City coach who is still an assistant for his son.
Interestingly, the son is known as the calmer one.
One of the main differences that I have noticed is that Wayne Kreiger, our coach now, is more in your face, and he will tell you exactly when you do something right and something wrong, Canterbury senior Bailey Farley said. He is more out there, while Scott was more laid back.
Wayne was 520-222 in 34 years at Columbia City, getting inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
I am probably a type of coach who does things more in an aggressive mode, Wayne said. They have adjusted and feel comfortable with it.
When I met the first time with our team, I said we are going to work on the defensive end. I have always felt like the defensive side is a strength of mine. We have continued to use that theme, and the kids are starting to realize there is something to that part of the game that we can be successful with.
Canterbury junior Kindell Fincher said: Papa Kreiger is more defense and the fundamentals. The son (Scott) Kreiger let us play basketball, and he didn’t really say too much. Papa Kreiger is more vocal than the son.
Wayne has benefited from having a veteran team, returning four starters from last year’s state championship team.
The experience helps us stay relaxed and calm when we are in a tournament because we have been there before, and we know what is going on, Fincher said.
Class 2A: Eastern (Greentown) (21-3) vs. Bishop Luers (14-11), 4 p.m.
Class 4A: South Side (23-3) vs. Warsaw (24-1), 6 p.m.
Class A: Lafayette Central Catholic (17-9) vs. Canterbury (23-3), 1 p.m.
Class 3A: Hamilton Heights (22-2) vs. Benton Central (22-3), 3 p.m.