One afternoon last week, Blue Springs girls basketball coach Mark Spigarelli was preparing for practice when he received a phone call from a former foe in the coaching ranks, one he considered a longtime friend. Herb Webster, who retired from Kearney in 2013 as the winningest girls coach in state history, wanted to nominate Spigarelli for the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
But the request required some digging from Spigarelli, who scrambled to tally his career record for the hall-of-fame resume.
The win total: 501.
In other words, Spigarelli reached milestone No. 500 in a tournament win against Blue Valley North on Jan. 23 — more than a week before he uncovered the accomplishment.
“I was just more surprised than anything, and I laughed when I realized that it had already happened,” Spigarelli said, later adding, “It just means I’m getting old.”
The distinguished career started in style, when Spigarelli led Pembroke Hill to a state championship in 1994-95, his first season at the helm. He totaled four state titles with Pembroke Hill and made a fifth Final Four appearance.
He’s in his eighth season with Blue Springs, a tenure that has included another five Final Four appearances, though it’s absent a state title. The Wildcats reached the state championship game four consecutive seasons but lost all four.
He took a career mark of 501-127 into Thursday’s game against Lee’s Summit North.
“As a young coach, you don’t realize how difficult it is to win,” Spigarelli said. “It’s tough at this level. You win that first year and you think it’s going to happen a lot. It just isn’t that easy.”
There have been some other lessons along the way, as well, along with a number of all-state players, whom Spigarelli credits most with ramping up his win total.
Over time, Spigarelli has centered his teams’ focus on playing stingy halfcourt, man-to-man defense — an element he says separates the good teams from the elite ones late in the postseason.
“Above all that, though, I think the biggest thing as a coach is to stay even keel — not get too up after wins or too down after the losses,” Spigarelli said. “That’s what I’ve learned in all these years.”
The career doesn’t have an end in sight. Spigarelli says he remains 12 years away from retirement eligibility in Missouri, and he expects to coach all of them.
Why? Well, that answer is rather simple.
“I’m still having fun,” he said.