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Lakota West boys basketball coach Jim Leon reflects upon reaching 500 career wins

He started his high school head coaching career in 1989
Jim Leon.jpg
Posted at 5:45 PM, Feb 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-26 17:45:38-05

WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Lakota West High School boys basketball coach Jim Leon sat in his office early Saturday afternoon and reflected upon 500 career victories and why high school athletics has been an integral part of his life.

"I just love the competition," Leon said. "I love being around the young people watching them develop, building their confidence and just having fun. It's just a great atmosphere for me."

Leon won his 500th career high school basketball game (boys and girls basketball combined) Friday night in the Firebirds' 73-59 win over Lakota East in a Division I district semifinal game at West Clermont.

He is 500-332 since becoming a high school basketball head coach at the Woodward boys program in 1989-90.

"It's special because of all the great players I've had the opportunity to coach over the years," Leon said. "And all the coaches that I was an assistant coach under and then assistants under me who have gone on to college and high school jobs. So many great memories. But the bottom line is the players. Just great kids. I've been blessed with talent over the years. Even when I coached the girls I had two (NCAA) Division I players there. Just very blessed and grateful to have the opportunity to be with these kids and win all these games."

Lakota West (14-10) advances to play defending state champion Centerville or New Carlisle Tecumseh March 6 in a district final at the University of Cincinnati's Fifth Third Arena.

"To make it to a district championship is phenomenal," Lakota West athletic director Scott Kaufman said. "To do it against East is just kind of a cherry on top of the sundae. But, I'm just so excited for the kids."

Leon was named the Lakota West head coach in May 2018. He is one of the most recognizable and successful area high school basketball coaches over the past four decades.

Leon is best known for his time with the Woodward boys’ basketball program. He was a head coach from 1989 to 2003 and compiled a 225-102 record. He was an assistant from 1983 to 1989. Leon was at Woodward when the Bulldogs were the Division I state champion in 1988, a Division I state semifinalist in 1989 and a state runner-up in 1990.

Leon led Woodward to three city titles, 10 consecutive league titles and hired now-UCLA men’s basketball coach Mick Cronin as an assistant.

Leon also coached at Mariemont and started the Clark Montessori boys’ basketball program and led the Cougars to a league championship in 2006 and ’07.

He coached the St. Ursula basketball program from 2010 to 2015.

Leon also coached at Western Hills (1983-84) and Summit Country Day (1982-83) prior to Woodward.

"There's two things that Jimmy has when you look at what he's done and how long he's done it," Kaufman said. "He has an incredible love of the game. That speaks for itself. You can't do this if you don't. But, even bigger than his love for the game is his love for the kids. To do what he's doing at his age and doing as well as he is that's special."

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