Girls Basketball

Fishman enjoyed ‘champion’ career as Lakota West girls basketball coach


WEST CHESTER TWP. — Andy Fishman wanted his players to become great.

He wanted them to become champions before ever becoming champions.

“When we would have the opportunity, we were ready,” Fishman said. “That was always the feeling. You conduct yourself as a champion. You live as a champion. You prepare as a champion. Then ultimately, you’ll have the opportunity to become a champion.”

That was the mindset the longtime Lakota West High School girls basketball coach put forth during an incredibly successful career.

Fishman announced Monday that he will be retiring from teaching and coaching at the conclusion of this school year.

Fishman, 60, will retire as Lakota West’s only varsity head basketball coach since Lakota split into East and West in 1997. Over those 27 years, he amassed a 497-170 record — including 312-102 in the Greater Miami Conference and a tournament record of 75-26.

His career of head coach success includes the 2015 Division I state championship, 2008 state runner-up, the 2008, 2009 and 2015 regional championship, three trips to the state Final Four, seven appearances in the regional Elite Eight, nine-time regional qualifier and 15-time district qualifier.

“Andy has been one of the most committed and passionate coaches I have ever had the pleasure to work with in my time at Lakota West,” Lakota West athletic director Scott Kaufman said. “His leadership on the court, in the classroom, and among our entire coaching staff will be dearly missed.

“Whenever help was needed, Andy was always there to step up and lead. His work ethic to ensure that all of his students and athletes received his full attention to help them thrive is one reason for the long-term success of his teams.”

Fishman’s programs have won the Greater Miami Conference championship 10 times, including six of the last 10 years. He has received multiple Coach of the Year honors in his tenure.

“I feel like everything that I imagined and then envisioned and then planned out for Lakota West girls basketball all came true,” Fishman said. “It all happened. It might not of happened all smooth sailing. You have your trials and tribulations. It’s a roller coaster. I always say to the girls and the parents that this is a journey. It truly is.”

Fishman, a native of Queens, New York, began his teaching and coaching career in New York in 1988. In 1991, he moved his family to West Chester where he started teaching as a special educator and coach for Lakota.

When Lakota split into Lakota East and Lakota West in 1997, Fishman was named the varsity head coach and continued his work as a special educator.

He’s remained in both positions until announcing his retirement on Monday.

“I want to thank all the Lakota West girls basketball players, coaches and parents for making this program great,” Fishman said. “This is the perfect time to win more time with my growing family and travel more.”

Fishman is married to his wife Felice and has three children Rylee, Blake and Tate — all graduates of Lakota West. Both his daughters are expecting their first children this spring, and Tate is graduating from college.

“There really isn’t much more to do,” he said. “You become increasingly challenged with the decisions you have to make with your time. At this point, there are some life-changing circumstances in your life.

“For me, I think it was just time. I wasn’t going to be one of those coaches that held on for another year or another win, and I’m OK with that.”

Fishman called his coaching career a journey — a journey that spanned 33 years within the Lakota School District.

He became an advocate for girls basketball and invested countless amounts of time and energy in shaping a winning culture in West Chester Township.

“If you’re really wanting to be great — it’s 24-7, it’s every day,” Fishman said. “But the reality is when you’re a head coach and you really care, you’re never really off because you’re planning for the next thing. It’s the bottom line.”

Over the course of his career, he has coached many athletes that have gone on to play at the collegiate level, the professional level and hundreds of athletes who played for the love of the game.

His passion led the Lakota West girls basketball program to be regarded as one of the top programs in Ohio with multiple nationally ranked teams.

The Lakota West acronym “Work Every day, Succeed Together” started during the 1997-1998 season. The current slogan is #GreatnessNow.

“Our teams from the very beginning put in the work,” he said. “It all started in 2008 when we started to climb the mountain and couldn’t for whatever reason. There was always an obstacle in front of us. We couldn’t get to that ultimate peak.

“Then you start to win a lot, and you start thinking that anything is possible. It started to become a ‘when’ and not so much an ‘if.’ Again, we wanted to conduct ourselves as champions before becoming one.”

The Firebirds became state champions in 2015.

“That 2015 season was incredible,” Fishman recalled. “But 2014 was incredible when we weren’t league champs and undefeated in the league. We had lost a few times. We found a way to win.”

Fishman noted a huge sectional championship win over Mason at Lakota East as being a monumental moment after the Comets had already beat Lakota West twice during the 2013-2014 regular season. The Firebirds rolled through the district tournament before beating a competitive Centerville squad in the regional semifinals.

Lakota West lost to Princeton in the regional finals, and the Vikings went on to win state.

“Southwest Ohio was a buzz at that point because you had Fairmont winning in 2013, Princeton in 2014 and us in 2015,” Fishman noted. 

“What I remember about 2015 — it is best that I don’t mention any names,” Fishman added. “It was really a huge team effort and every girl doing her part. We did not win that state championship because of one person having an amazing game. It was a total team effort. We were balanced. We had our fair share of outstanding Division I players and prospects at that point. The bottom line is that it was everyone from the first girl in to the last girl on the bench. Every single coach on the bench completely pulling together for really a common mission and one heartbeat.

“I started to think about how you’re influencing eternity after that. The reason why it happens is because of the learning, the love and the quality of the person being generational. For me, myself, teaching and coaching was always about life leasons. It was about making tough choices. It was about dealing with the most horrible circumstances that you could ever imagine and finding a way to stand up in front of the room and move forward.

“So, I’ll hope that those I’ve mentored will in some way think back to either Mr. Fishman or Coach Fishman and the one little life lesson that they’ve taken with them is passed on to their children and maybe employees or friends. I think that’s how best I want to have an impact on the world through one little person at a time.”

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