West Ashley basketball coach Ronnie DuPre zeroes in on 500 career victories

West Ashley coach Ronnie DuPre talks to his players at practice Wednesday. DuPre is three victories away from career win No. 500. DuPre goes after win No. 498 Friday against James Island. Leroy Burnell/staff 1/8/2014

He's been coaching high school basketball for nearly three decades, so West Ashley boys coach Ronnie DuPre has seen plenty of changes in the talent level and the game itself.

One constant in DuPre's 27-year career is his passion.

"I have a passion for sports," DuPre said. "I have a passion for coaching. I have a passion for helping young people reach their goals."

Another constant is the four goals he sets before every season.

One goal is to create memories for his players so that they remain interested in the program after they graduate.

Another is to field a team that the school and community can be proud of, on and off the basketball court.

The third goal is to create an environment that also teaches life lessons. DuPre wants his players to become proud fathers, husbands and productive members of society later in life.

The fourth and final goal is for the team to advance as far as it can in the playoffs.

"I'm not batting a thousand," said the 54-year-old DuPre. "But if we accomplish those goals, it's been a successful season if we win five games or 20 games."

DuPre, who began his career at James Island before accepting the West Ashley job in 2001, has 497 career victories against 202 losses heading into Friday's game against James Island.

He could coach at least another 11 years and close in on 700 victories, a figure reached by only four boys coaches in South Carolina, including Pinewood Prep's Chuck Eidson and Earl Brown, who reached the milestone while he was the head coach at Burke.

But DuPre is more than just numbers.

"Whether I win 500 this year or not at all, I don't look at the numbers," he said. "It's more than numbers. If the passion leaves, I'll step down."

DuPre spent 14 years at James Island, leading the Trojans to a 276-111 record. They won the Class AAA state championship with a victory over Irmo in 1992, a year after Irmo trumped the Trojans in the '91 title game.

He was named coach at West Ashley in time for the 2001-02 season and has posted a 221-91 record there. He's led the Wildcats to region titles and deep runs in the playoffs.

"I would like to get West Ashley into the state championship game," DuPre said. "We've had some success in volleyball and girls soccer, but we haven't been able to get there in boys basketball. If we can get there, I know our students would really get involved."