COLORADO SPRINGS — It wouldn't be a stretch to think that of his now 400 career wins, Wednesday's 48-39 victory over Discovery Canyon wasn't the cleanest for Joe Hites.
But at the end of the day, they all count the same. Vista Ridge won for the 17th time this season. Hites now has 400 for his high school coaching career.
That career began in the 1980s, coaching the girls at Delta High School. He maintains that the way he coaches his team today isn't all that different from what that kid in his early-20s was doing.
"I'm 51-years-old and I feel the same as I did as we were going after one of those first games when I was in my 20s," Hites said.
But that passion that he has brought to his teams over the years has paid dividends. He refuses to look at the 400 wins as a solo accomplishment. He credits the drive of young men and women who sacrifice something for themselves in order to be a part of something bigger.
That's a mentality that Hites preaches to his players to this day, and they are more than aware of what it will mean for them in the future.
"(I've learned) life lessons," Wolves guard Hunter Maldonado said. "I've learned a lot of life lessons. He's real big about teaching you everything that he can in those three or four years that he has you."
Hites spent 10 years in California before heading back to Colorado to take the boys job at Cheyenne Mountain. He remained there until 2008 when his addiction to challenges drove him out to Ohio for a few seasons.
But Colorado is home. And in the end, he found himself back in the Colorado Springs area and as the head coach at Vista Ridge.
"Nothing against Ohio, but I'm not a humidity guy," he said. "I'm not a bug guy. I gained an appreciation for Colorado."
And he was able to keep coaching. He continues to pour his heart into the game of basketball and has over time generated consistent success.
But there is one success in particular that he is most thankful for.
"The crazy thing about the number is I've coached over 700 games and the thing that I think about numbers-wise is that my wife has stayed with me through all of them," Hites said. "That's the impressive number. The 400 isn't nearly as impressive as the 700 for my wife."
But it has to help that his endeavor isn't motivated by the success that he can claim for himself. Each of his 400 wins, he credits his players. And that includes Wednesday's win that clinched a Pikes Peak Athletic Conference title.
"Tonight's about these guys and I'm just thankful I've had this journey," he said.
As is the community at Vista Ridge. As a teacher at the school, Hites is able to impact more than just the group of kids that take the basketball court every afternoon in the winter.
"Joe is a great stability factor for our school," athletic director Sam Baldwin said. "The best thing about Joe Hites is that he's a better teacher than a basketball coach. He really makes an impact."
With a league championship and Hites' 400th win out of the way, the next agenda for the Wolves is the Class 5A state tournament. They currently sit at No. 17 in the RPI and with the regular season concluding this weekend, they'll know exactly how many more wins they need to come away with a state title.
And not matter the number, for Hites, each one will be no more important than any of the 400 that came before them.