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Text and photos by Peter Vankevich
For 10 years, fans of Ocracoke School’s boys’ varsity Dolphins basketball team have been accustomed to seeing a nervous adult pacing back and forth on the sidelines amidst the blue-and-white uniforms.
But not this season. Coach Dave Allewalt has accepted a position to coach the Washington High Pam Packs of Beaufort County.
He played basketball at Andover High School in Linthicum, Maryland, and was a four-year Letterman, graduating in 1990.
But his main sport was tennis. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in the renowned Van Der Meer Tennis Academy. He competed in the challenger’s and satellite circuits and was ranked in the top 700 in the world. Health reasons took him out of this high-level competition, and he enrolled in Salisbury State University. There, he continued to play tennis, but not basketball.
“I learned the game of basketball from Dick Heart, my coach, and John Brady, who at the time was the coach of Annapolis High School and the second all-time winningest coach in Maryland high school basketball history behind Morgan Wooten at DeMatha High School,” Allewalt said. He gained more experience as an assistant coach at Annapolis High School for four years.
When he moved to Ocracoke several years ago, Adam Burleson (Coach B), the school’s gym teacher, was coaching both the boys’ and the girls’ varsity teams.
“And you know, it’s time consuming enough to (coach) just one (team),” Allewalt said. “So, the opportunity presented itself to take over the head coaching job of the boys.”
That was 2010, when Walt Padgett came on board as the new principal, and he wanted to improve the sports programs. It was also the last year of the old gym with a small seating capacity and nonregulation size floor.
As head coach, Allewalt got off to a good start. The first game was an on-the-road victory at Pongo Christian Academy in Belhaven. The first home game against Mattamuskeet produced another victory, beating the Lakers for the first time since 1972.
“I was like, ‘Wow, it’s a pretty easy gig,’ and then we didn’t win another game the rest of the year,” he said. “So, the first year was growing pains for sure.”
Due to its remoteness and a small gym, Ocracoke struggled to get more than just Division 1-A conference games, playing only about 12 or 14 per season.
So Allewalt took out a state road map and dabbed all the towns that were within a two-and-a-half-hour drive, not counting the ferry time, and contacted the schools that played varsity basketball in order to build up a 22-game schedule. Some schools were initially willing to play them if the Dolphins went on the road.
The next year, the new gym, affectionately known as “the tank,” with a regulation-size playing floor and expanded seating capacity, opened and that helped attract non-conference schools to make the long trip here.
The school also began hosting a weekend boys’ and girls’ varsity Holiday Basketball Tournament in early December that continues to attract teams as far away as Virginia.
His second year saw the new Dolphins basketball team playing 22 games. It also helped the girls’ varsity program, the Lady Dolphins, since schools schedule games to play back-to-back.
The program got better and better, the high point being the 2017-18 season. Led by senior Liam Caswell, the Dolphins were undefeated conference champions and for the first time made the second round of the state tournaments. That year the team went 21-4, losing only to non conference division 2-A schools and the tournament final against East Carteret. That year, Caswell was named Coastal Ten Division 1-A Player of the Year and Allewalt Coach of the Year, an award he has won three times including this past season.
In addition to the successes on the court, the team has received the prestigious Army National Guard NCHSAA Scholar Athlete Award for nine consecutive years.
Since Allewalt works at SmacNally’s Waterfront Bar and Grill and not at the school, he met regularly with the principal, guidance counselor and teachers and each team member to ensure they were keeping up with their grades.
This kind of success gets around.
“I saw a very unique opportunity to jump up in a classification going to a school that’s a 2-A school,” he said about his move to (little) Washington. The Eastern Carolina conference is one of the strongest in the state and includes power teams the Kinston Vikings and Green Central Rams. This past season, the Pamlico Pack went 5-15, and he welcomes the challenge to turn the program around.
On leaving as coach, he was positive.
“A lot of times when you do anything in life, you’d like to leave it better than what you got it,” he said. “And I feel like that right now. That’s the case after 10 years. I mean, six straight state playoff appearances, and then two straight conference championships. The future of Dolphins basketball looks great.”
He also credit basketball success to the hard work and dedication of the players, the assistant coaches Scott McNally, who has been on the sidelines with him for the past nine years, Blackburn Warner and Denny Widener.
He noted the support of the school, parents, community, WOVV (the community radio station that broadcasts the home games) and the Ocracoke School Athletic Boosters Club for their financial backing.
Charles Temple, Ocracoke School’s high school English teacher and former school athletic director, summed up Allewalt’s tenure.
“David’s commitment to his players is clear, and they know that he is preparing them for the game and for life after the game,” he said. “His intensity has always translated to the team’s intensity on the court.”
The new coach has not yet been named.