He didn’t reveal it until late Saturday night. He would be retiring as Bellevue West’s boys basketball coach, and his dean of students position following the Thunderbirds’ 64-41 victory over Millard North.
It was for the school’s sixth state championship, all with him as coach, and seventh in his career.
But his news was hard to keep in. Same with his emotions.
Woodard, who turns 65 in April, didn’t want his retirement to overshadow his team’s accomplishments. Bellevue West is the first undefeated Class A champion in 11 years and the fourth dating to 1960.
Even when he started the victory hugs, he kept it in check.
“I didn't want them to maybe perceive anything,’’ he said Sunday. “It was probably an extra-long (hug) for Josiah and some of the other seniors especially. I was just so happy for them at that time.
“I just didn't want what was an incredible year to be spoiled.”
When he told the team, it was in the school gym once they came back from Lincoln.
But it was last fall when Woodard decided to make this his last season. Leaving at this time would be the fairest to the next coach, who will inherit a good while beginning to inject his flavor into the program.
School administrators agreed to exclude Woodard from the district’s retirement list that goes public until after the season.
“The emphasis needed to be on these kids and what they did, not on what some old guy’s doing next year or whatever,’’ he said.
He’s surmised that some of his assistants may have suspected retirement was in the offing. Before warmups Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena, he told Steve Klein, whom Woodard hopes will be hired as his replacement, and another one or two of his decision.
“I said, you guys, I haven't tried to keep anything from you but I just didn't want any focus about anything but getting ready for this game. But here’s what was happening,’’ he said. “There were emotions but in the final analysis, you got a game to play and you try to get every bit of your focus and energy on that because the kids deserve that.”
Doug Woodard did it well.
His record at Bellevue West over 25 seasons was 453-146. Counting his time at Bellevue Christian, where the Omaha Burke and UNO graduate started the now-defunct school’s athletic program and also was football coach, and Omaha Roncalli, where his 1996 basketball team was Class B state champion, his career record ends at 669-252.
“A lot of these years when we won state, I didn't necessarily think we were the best team. I thought we were maybe like one or two or three, but on a given night you know the thing could really go either way,’’ he said. “This year I felt we were the best team but the best team doesn't always win. I wanted them to go out like I thought they should go out.”
His next chapter begins with his family of four children and 13 grandchildren. They have a vacation home at Sun Valley Lake in Iowa where he intends to spend more time with them.
He’s dabbled in leadership training recently and might like to start a program to mentor young coaches and business executives.
Woodard will also start taking new seats in high school gyms, only as a spectator. His oldest granddaughter will be in ninth grade next year and playing basketball.
“I’m definitely going to be around,’’ he said.
Photos: 2023 Nebraska boys basketball state tournament, Saturday