WESTVILLE – Ron Dunaway grew up having a deep connection with Adair County and coaching. His father was a coach at Stilwell and Westville schools, and Dunaway would often find himself at the coach’s office and fieldhouse alongside him.
He graduated from Westville High School and went to college though he was unsure of what he wanted to do with his life.
“I got into industry and I graduated and got out on the job for two weeks, and I knew I wasn’t going to stay and do that. I felt like I had a different calling,” Dunaway said.
His first job was at Zion Public School, a K-8 school in Adair County, where he worked for four years. He said he always knew he wanted to coach high school, so he contacted the head football coach at Stilwell who hired him as an assistant. Working at Stilwell High School allowed him opportunities to coach various sports from football to middle school basketball and weightlifting. He was named the head coach of the high school basketball team in 2005 and has been coaching basketball for the past 16 years.
“That first team was so important. Those guys, they let me coach them,” he said. “They were probably my most important group that I ever coached. Those guys, they listened and they let me coach them and we made some mistakes, but we did it together. It’s one of the best teams and best memories that I have in coaching.”
In 2014, Dunaway and his team made their way to the state tournament. It was the first time Stilwell Indians had made an appearance at state since 2000. They fought their way through the tournament to play for the state title. Although they lost to Douglass in the 4A title game, the Indians brought home the silver ball home and a fresh breath into the community.
As one of the 2014 seniors, Matt Lea was a key player in the team’s success.
“That’s what it’s all about, you know,” Lea said. “Just some local guys making a run. Whenever I get together with those guys we still talk about it to this day. It means everything. Now that I’m coaching I kind of look at everything he (Dunaway) did through a different lens. Everything he did was all about the family, the brotherhood. That was really the reason for a lot of success.”
Dunaway led Stilwell to the state tournament in 2015 as well, but the team was defeated in the semifinals. After that Dunaway decided it was time for a change and was hired as head coach at Berryhill where he coached for two years before moving to Westville.
As a Westville alumnus, he wanted to coach there to see if he could carry the success he had at Stilwell over with him and lead the Yellowjackets to a state tournament.
“This year we did it. It took us four years. I thought we could I just didn’t know it would happen so quickly. I knew we had a chance with this group and sure enough, we had a great run,” he said.
The last time a Westville boys basketball team went to the state tournament was 1938.
Westville junior Kegan Bradford said, “Oh, it was different. It was the most people I’ve ever seen in a stadium at a high school game. I was hard not to be overwhelmed because there was just so much going on.”
Westville made it to the quarterfinals before losing to eventual 3A state champion Crossings Christian. Dunaway said he has hopes of carrying over the success from the 2020-21 season to next season. Losing only two seniors, he has some “great players” coming up and plans to continue to build the program.
“We have a lot of kids that need that love and that’s how I’ve tried to coach is through love. I love the kids, I love what I’m doing, and that’s what we establish our program on is love. Through that we’ve been really successful. What we want, we want our boys that when you grow up we want you to be outstanding men. Those are the things we work on, and we use basketball to help teach that,” Dunaway said.