St. Henry’s Faust breaks Ninth Region career wins record

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Kenney Shields walked to midcourt at St. Henry’s Holbrook Hall and presented David Faust with a basketball to commemorate the milestone that the latter had reached – 461 wins as the Crusaders’ boys’ basketball head coach – one more than Shields had when his high school coaching career concluded at Highlands in 1988.

How rare is that? First of all, 460 wins is so rare that this Ninth Region record stood for nearly 35 years. But then to have the coach who’d held that distinction in attendance and passing the proverbial torch to the man who’d eclipsed his mark, that’s as rare as hen’s teeth.

Rarer still, the connection these two men have predates David Faust’s existence.

“Dave Faust, his grandpa and my dad were milkmen together at the Clover Leaf Dairy, which is no longer there. So, I knew his grandma and grandpa,” Shields said. “I knew his family before Dave was ever born.”

The former Northern Kentucky dairy producer brought the families of these two men together long before any inkling that either would end up coaching basketball for a living. Friday night in Erlanger, more than 60 years later, here they were sharing a moment as the two winningest boys’ high school basketball coaches in the Ninth Region’s long and storied history.

“It was pretty awesome because I’ve known Coach Shields since I was a little kid,” said Faust, who is now in his 60s. “His parents and my grandparents were best of friends. His father and my grandfather worked together at the Clover Leaf Dairy for I don’t know how many years.”

When the final horn sounded Friday night, Faust’s Crusaders had dispatched of Bluegrass United, a homeschool team from Lexington, 84-45. The folks at St. Henry had a feeling that Faust might break the record on this night. That was evident at halftime when all of Faust’s former players in attendance were invited to come down from the bleachers and onto the floor. It began with a slow trickle and ended with 50 grown men who Faust had coached at some point during what is now his 31st season at St. Henry.

Former St. Henry players under Dave Faust who returned in anticipation of Faust breaking the Ninth Region record for most career wins. Dan Rieffer | LINK nky

“It’s just awesome. Just awesome. I’ve been very fortunate in 31 years to be able to coach great kids. It’s very gratifying for me that they come back. There’s quite a few I stay in touch with,” Faust said. “I’m coaching and teaching kids of players from my first team. It’s just awesome. St. Henry is a great community. I’ve been fortunate. The administration has been awesome through all these 31 years.”

Faust played at Newport Central Catholic, where he is a member of its hall of fame, before continuing his playing career at Thomas More, where he is also a member of the school’s hall of fame. His head coaching career got off to an inauspicious start. After playing for legendary Saints coach Jim Connor, Faust was finishing up his teaching degree while serving as Connor’s JV coach. He was aboard the team bus traveling to a game in Danville when things took a turn for the worse.

“We were driving to Centre. All the sudden, somebody said, ‘What the hell is going on!?’ And I perked up,” Faust said.

That somebody was Coach Connor.

“We had never heard him say a cuss word. I said, ‘This ain’t good,’” Faust recalled. “We went off the embankment. We flipped, then we flipped again. The best way I can describe it is like being a silver saucer in the snow, just sliding along I-75. Coach was pretty banged up.”

So banged up that Connor couldn’t coach. Enter the JV coach. Faust, still a student mind you, filled in for Connor for four games following the bus accident.

“And I’m 2-2 as a college coach,” Faust said, laughing.

As a high school coach, Faust has compiled a 461-383 record. He was 32 years old when he became St. Henry’s coach, beginning with the 1992-93 season.

“I get that the 460 wins is a lot, but to me the 31 seasons is the number that says a lot,” said Matt Otte, one of Faust’s former players and currently the Conner boys’ basketball head coach. “To know what goes into every season and to do it for that long speaks to how much he loves the game and how much he loves coaching and helping kids out. That’s just as a varsity coach. I know he’s been a JV coach and even some baseball (coaching). It’s crazy. It just shows the competitiveness he has and desire to work with and get the most out of kids.”

Otte’s Conner team has played St. Henry in six of the seven seasons since he became the Cougars’ coach.

“Pregame and postgame, it’s a little different, different than playing somebody else. But in the game, you’re trying to win the game. So, you don’t think about it,” Otte said. “Right now, it probably means a little bit more to my assistant, Adam, who’s Coach Faust’s son.”

Win number 452 for Faust came against a former player and his own son back on Dec. 2, the second game of St. Henry’s season, 71-61 over Conner. Otte was a member of the best team in St. Henry’s history. The 2002-03 Crusaders claimed the school’s only Ninth Region title to date, as well as their first All “A” Classic state championship.

Coach Faust was asked if he was reminded of that 2003 season a few weeks ago when the Kentucky men’s basketball team played Tennessee in Knoxville, during which the Volunteers retired the jersey of Mason County all-time great Chris Lofton.

“Yeah, sure did,” Faust said.

That’s because after a 53-49 win over Simon Kenton to punch St. Henry’s ticket to the Sweet 16, the Crusaders met Lofton’s Royals in the first round at Rupp Arena. The game was there for the taking in the closing moments against the eventual 2003 state champs.

“We had a guy who got injured in the first half, and he continued to play. We were down two. I didn’t think he’d be able to go in overtime. We were going for the win,” Faust said. “One of their players made a great play, knocked the ball away, and we didn’t get the shot off.”

Mason County barely beat St. Henry, 59-57. The Royals went on to defeat Oldham County in the quarterfinals, Hopkinsville in the semifinals and Ballard in the championship game – all by double digits. Lofton wound up breaking the record for most three-pointers made in a state tournament, which still stands. He went 1-of-4 from beyond the arc against St. Henry before adding 16 more triples in his subsequent three games. Lofton’s 17 points against the Crusaders were also the fewest he scored in his four games of that Sweet 16 (19 points vs. Oldham County, 30 vs. Hopkinsville and 39 vs. Ballard).

Faust’s 2003 team won the All “A” state title by beating a Rose Hill Christian squad led by then 15-year-old eighth-grader OJ Mayo, who was the third overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, played eight seasons in the NBA and currently plays professionally in Egypt.

“It was a great experience,” Faust said of St. Henry’s 2003 run. “Everybody wants to ask me is that your best team ever. And I just say, ‘record, yes,’ but I don’t compare any of them. I really don’t. I’m just grateful for the kids that played for me.”

That 2002-03 team went 30-5, but it’s hardly Faust’s one shining moment. His Crusaders captured back-to-back All “A” Classic state championships in 2020 and ’21, and have won the All “A” Ninth Region tournament eight times.

The wins are nice. No doubt, Faust is a competitor. But it must be about more than wins and losses to endure 30-plus seasons of coaching teenagers, which is why Faust wasn’t even aware that he was approaching the record.

“Well, to be honest with you, I kept telling people that I didn’t want to know. I’ll find out when you tell me. A former teacher here texted me last Friday and said congratulations on, I guess, I don’t even know what the total number is, but ‘you have two more to go.’ So, (last) Friday was the first time I knew I was close,” Faust said. “I’ve never brought it up to the kids. We had a normal week of practice. Didn’t bring it up last night or pregame.”

Then, afterwards, they made the announcement.

“I just told the kids, I said, ‘It’s not about me. If I didn’t have kids like you, I wouldn’t be at this point in my career.’”

Faust still sends Christmas cards to his former players. One father of three sons who’ve play for Faust said, “When you do something for Dave, no matter how big or how small, he will thank you with a hand-written letter. He is the type of person you wish you could be,” the parent said.

Faust himself has been the recipient of hand-written cards congratulating him on successes over the years, from Coach Shields, who said he’s followed Faust’s career. What Shields saw Friday night was just further evidence that Faust is a coach after his own heart.

“He’s an outstanding coach. The kids play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. They’re together. They have great spacing. They take good shots. Anybody that’s played for Dave has cared for him and loved him. You can tell by this tonight (with many of Faust’s former players returning). It couldn’t happen to a finer gentleman. And I’m very happy and proud of him for this record,” Shields said.

St. Henry coach David Faust watching warmups prior to his team’s win Friday night.

St. Henry doesn’t play again until next Thursday, at home against Lloyd Memorial. Seems Faust has some time to enjoy breaking a 35-year-old record, becoming the winningest coach in Ninth Region history. He has the weekend to celebrate.

“No. I’ll enjoy tonight because I’m going to be around all of these kids that I’ve coached and taught. And then, we got too much left to accomplish. We go right back with Lloyd, and it’s a district seed game. If we win, we get the one seed,” said Faust, who shows no signs of slowing down.

But how many more years will he keep at it?

“I enjoy what I’m doing. The kids here are great. All you had to do was in look in the stands tonight. I’m a Notre Dame fan, and tonight’s student section theme was Notre Dame, which was pretty neat,” Faust said, clearly touched by the gesture of the student section clad in Fighting Irish green.

“I really don’t know, to be honest with you,” said Faust of when he might decide to hang it up.

He’s not just the boys’ basketball coach. Faust has also been a teacher all these 31 years. He survived the challenge of instructing students remotely during the pandemic. A repeat of that will send him into retirement quicker than anything on the court.

“If we go NTI (non-traditional instruction) again, and I have to teach in front of a computer, it might be over on the spot, because technology and I, we just don’t get along.”

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