There's nothing particularly shiny about Dodge City boys basketball coach Dennis Hamilton except the top of his head and his win-loss record.
He's not outspoken or controversial. He doesn't ride officials, looking for the next call to go his way. He coaches his players, but never demeans them. He's a family man who returned to his roots to raise his three sons so they could be near his parents.
Hamilton is a high school basketball coach, plain and simple. Except that coaching, of course, is never plain and simple. There are always issues, even for somebody as even-tempered as Hamilton.
He is in his 24th season with the Red Demons, who ran their winning streak to 14 on Wednesday afternoon in the Class 6A tournament with a 55-53 double-overtime win over Leavenworth and its grizzled coach, Larry Hogan, who is in his 28th season.
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"A couple of dinosaurs out there,'' Hamilton said.
Both started at their respective schools during the Reagan administration. And there's no end in sight.
This is the 10th Dodge team Hamilton has brought to a state tournament but the Demons have yet to reward him with a championship; their best finish was second to Olathe South in 2004. Hamilton, though, seems to always pull the maximum out of his teams. The Red Demons will be an underdog against once-beaten Blue Valley Northwest, a winner Wednesday over Wichita Northwest, in Friday's semifinals.
Hamilton's attitude? OK. So what?
"I appreciate all the teams I have coached over the years but this was a nice step for these guys,'' Hamilton said of Wednesday's win, more gratifying than most because it came in such a high-stakes game and after the Demons trailed 17-8 after the first quarter. "We realize it's going to get tougher Friday, but I just got a gut feeling that we'll show up and be ready to play at 4:45.''
Dodge City is a rare western 6A school, so the Demons spend most of the season playing in anonymity, which is just fine with Hamilton.
He has carved out a niche and with a 341-171 career record, he's built a program other coaches try to emulate.
"I don't really know Dennis other than from visiting with him at state tournaments in the past,'' Leavenworth's Hogan said. "But he's a really good guy and obviously a very good coach. If guys like us didn't enjoy coaching, we wouldn't be doing it after all these years.''
Hamilton graduated from Dodge City in 1976 and played two years of basketball at Dodge City Community College. Then he came to Wichita State to get his undergraduate degree, watching a Shocker team that included Antoine Carr, Cliff Levingston and others.
"I saw Larry Bird play for Indiana State in this building when it was Levitt Arena,'' Hamilton said.
Hamilton loves being in Dodge City and he credits his wife, Tawyna, for being the ultimate coach's wife.
"She understands,'' he said. "She's been around sports her whole life.''
Hamilton says he'll reward her soon, though, by letting go of coaching. Just don't try to pin him down on a date.
"Every season brings a new challenge, new kids,'' he said. "But it's tougher the older you get. Yeah, sure it is. I don't think I've reached the burn-out phase yet, but I'm not going to be one of those guys doing this into my 60s and 70s.''
Hamilton, though, appreciates the comfort of being home.
He loves doing his post-game radio show and is appreciative of any publicity his team can get, although he much prefers that it center on the players and not on the coach.
Ask him and he's not even sure of his overall record or how many times he's taken Dodge City to a state tournament. Like a lot of coaches, he insists he's not doing this for any reason other than to help kids. It's easy to believe him.
As laid back as he is, he doesn't shy away from admitting he'd love to win one of these tournaments sometime. He's as competitive as the next guy.
"There are a lot of guys who have never gotten to where our teams have gotten, though,'' he said.
Wednesday's tense double-overtime game would probably have given Hamilton a few more gray hairs if he had much left. He said he started losing his hair when he was in college and blames genetics, not the emotional and physical toll of coaching basketball.
"You know what?'' he responded when asked about his bald dome. "I wouldn't take a Tom Cruise head of hair right now if you gave it to me. I don't need something else to take care of in my life.''