High school basketball has been good to Jerry Sigler.
The veteran girls coach at Sylvania Northview, now in his 33rd season with the Wildcats, has never had a losing season. His teams have won nine Great Lakes League titles and six Northern Lakes League titles and have made three state final four appearances.
Many who knew Sigler when he was a student at Eastwood High School never saw this coming. Neither did Sigler.
"When I started teaching, I wanted to try coaching boys," said Sigler, a 1963 Eastwood graduate. "That wasn't going to happen. There was never a boys opening available. I got a call one day from the Northview athletic director (Jim Glase) and he said, 'How about coaching girls?' I went, 'Oh, man. I'll have to think about that a little bit.'
"I called him back and said that looks like how it's going to have to be. He said I was going to make $200. I coached junior varsity for one year, and the rest is history."
Sigler and Tom Davis of East Canton entered the 2008-09 season as the third-winningest girls basketball coaches in Ohio history. Davis entered the season with a 587-200 record while Sigler was 587-152.
Karen Wittrock of Rocky River Lutheran West is the all-time leader, with a 648-186 record entering this season, followed by Ed Zink of Beavercreek (614-162).
Sigler's current Northview squad is 10-5 and 6-3 in the NLL, boosting his career mark to 597-157. He said he never imagined reaching 600 career victories.
"It's hard to envision to be around that long and be successful and have kids who put in the time and effort," said Sigler, 63. "Six hundred wins ... I can't envision it. I never would have thought it when I started way back when.
"I've been blessed with kids who are willing to work and put in the time. I've have very good coaches surrounding me and we have worked extremely hard at it to get as much as we could get out of them. I'm fortunate for that to happen."
Northview is the fourth-winningest program in the state, with 609 victories entering the 2008-09 season. The Wildcats trail only Toledo Central Catholic, with 657 wins entering this year, Rocky River Lutheran West (648) and Lima Bath (644).
Sigler's older brother (by 14 years), Tom, and his wife, Rita, have seen many Northview games over the years.
"He was always competitive and he still is competitive," Tom said. "He's got something going for him, let's face it. Team after team went to all these tournaments and won a lot of league titles.
He chose to coach the girls and that was the way to go for him. He got in on the ground floor, and I'm glad for him."
Sigler grew up in Pemberville and later earned a teaching degree from Bowling Green State University. He made his eighth grade basketball team but didn't play as a freshman. He was a guard on the junior varsity team as a sophomore.
"I was a team manager for the next two years because I wasn't good enough to make the team. They were pretty good," said Sigler, whose family lived across the street from Eastwood High School in 1962. "I look back on it and I wished I could have gone out my junior and senior year. I would have hung around the gym and learned a few things. I hung around the gym as a manager and learned some things."
Marty Brueggemeier was a 5-10 guard at Eastwood and a teammate of Sigler's in the eighth grade and when both were sophomores.
Brueggemeier, who still lives in Pemberville, played for Coach Bobby Dawson at Eastwood his senior year, when "Ziggy" Sigler was the Eagles' team manager.
"I was just an average athlete myself and Jerry was too, pretty much," Brueggemeier said. "We always kidded him because he was a southpaw. He was always an average ballplayer, but we had fun together. I'm proud of Jerry the way he's come up and handled the whole program at Northview. We had no idea Ziggy would end up a girls basketball coach.
"Tom and Rita live just a block over from us, and our wives are in the same clubs. We always followed Northview to the regionals and went to watch them in Columbus. We've stayed in touch and I consider Ziggy a good friend of mine."
Sigler has collected lots of hardware during his coaching career.
In 2007 he was honored with the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association’s Paul Walker Award. In 2005 he won the Ohio High School Athletic Association “Sportsmanship, Ethics and Integrity Award,” and he twice has been named the OHSBCA Division I Coach of the Year (1998, 2004).
The Associated Press named him its Coach of the Year in 1979 and 2004.
Sigler replaced B.J. Murray as Northview's varsity coach in 1976, and his first team went 16-4 and won the GLL title. In Sigler's second year the 'Cats went 22-2 and reached the state semifinals and was ranked fifth in the state. A year later the Wildcats went 21-1 and were ranked second in Ohio.
"The girls' game was new at that point," Sigler recalled. "The girls I had were very athletic and very competitive. They had success early on, and at that point it became contagious and they just wanted to be better and better. One team made it to Columbus and that helped fire up the rest of the kids."
Sigler said his 2003-04 state semifinal team, which went 26-1 and featured Indiana-bound Nikki Smith, was the best team he ever coached. Sigler said the 2004-05 state semifinal team, which went 25-2, was his most fulfilling team.
"They were not expected to be there," he said.
Coaches around the state know they are in for a battle when they play Northview.
Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame, a four-time state champion, played the Wildcats earlier this season and struggled to a 59-47 win at Northview. Prior to that, Notre Dame's closest margin of victory was 21 points.
"They are a well-coached team as long as Jerry is a part of it, and it always will be a great team to play," Notre Dame coach Dante Harlan said. "I knew they were going to be a disciplined, well-coached and fundamentally strong team. His teams are not going to quit. He hasn't won as many games as he's won without knowing what he's doing."
One of Sigler's regrets is that he never coached at the collegiate level. He said he wanted to coach at BGSU, but the Falcons hired Fran Voll instead.
"The rest," Sigler said, "is history. I just wished I had that opportunity. This is where I'm going to end up and I'm very comfortable with it. When they put me away, I'll go in a Northview sweatshirt."
Sigler retired as a physical education teacher in 2001. He and his wife of 42 years, Karen, have two children, Jerry Jr. and Gretchen.
Sigler credited Karen, who has been the team's scorekeeper since the 1992-93 season, for sticking with him through the last three-plus decades.
"She's sacrificed a lot for this to happen," he said. "When you coach that many years, your family sacrifices. She's been there through the good and the bad."