The girls high school basketball coaching landscape in Hancock County changed swiftly this spring as each position fell vacant in domino fashion.
First, Andy Meneely and the Eastern Hancock Royals parted ways in late March before the resignation of veteran coach Steve Doud at Mt. Vernon in early April. The controversial resignation of Doug Laker at Greenfield-Central followed in the same month, while shortly after Brian Kehrt decided the time was right to step down at New Palestine.
The whirlwind of departures flipped just as rapidly this offseason with all four coaching jobs now filled, ending with the hiring of Joshua Means, a recent assistant coach under Laker at Greenfield-Central, this month.
Sarah Gizzi was the first hire in late April, taking over the New Palestine Dragons’ girls basketball program after Kehrt led the team for four seasons. Kehrt guided the Dragons to 54 wins during his tenure, including a 17-7 campaign in 2016-17 and a 6-1 Hoosier Heritage Conference record.
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The team’s HHC record last season marked the program’s best since winning the conference in 1994.
Formerly Sarah Haynes, Gizzi was an Indiana All-Star at New Palestine — the school’s first — in 1994 and scored 1,172 points in her career, which included two sectional title and a Hoosier Heritage Conference championship.
Gizzi teaches math at Doe Creek Middle School, which made her hire ideal, according to the New Palestine administration.
The same aspect led to Eastern Hancock’s going a new, yet familiar direction, by rehiring Shari Doud as the Royals girls basketball coach in May.
Doud coached the Royals in 2014-15, leading the program to a 17-8 record and a sectional finals appearance.
On Sept. 2, 2016, Doud was arrested for an alleged OWI in Fortville. After the incident, the veteran coach, who owns a 216-94 career record through 13 seasons, resigned in October of last year.
“Obviously, if we didn’t feel confident we wouldn’t have went that direction,” Eastern Hancock athletic director Aaron Spaulding said. “As administrators, we’re confident in Shari.”
A 1987 Mt. Vernon High School graduate, Doud held her first varsity head coaching position at Greenfield-Central High School in 2000-01 and led the Cougars’ girls team to a 13-8 season.
At Pendleton Heights from 2001-12, Doud had six varsity seasons with 18 wins or more and coached the Arabians to a regional championship in 2008-09 and three consecutive sectional titles from 2009-11.
Doud took over the team after the resignation of Jeremy Powers in 2015. After Doud’s one season in 2016, Meneely led the Royals to a 15-11 mark and their first sectional title in 16 years.
Meneely left Eastern Hancock this spring to pursue a position as athletic director at Mid-Atlantic Christian University in North Carolina. With the head coaching position open, Eastern Hancock was seeking consistency in 2017 and beyond. They found it with Shari Doud.
“Our juniors this year have had three different coaches in three years. I think familiarity is a positive thing,” Spaulding said. “Shari is also a teacher in our building. Anytime you can get a teacher in the building to coach, that is a major plus. And also, the fact that she has been a successful head coach is hard to pass up. You won’t find many better candidates.”
Doud is a sixth-grade language arts and social studies teacher at Eastern Hancock Middle School.
“I’m flattered, honored. It’s a testament to forgiveness. Eastern Hancock is a classy school. They know people are going to error, but it’s how they grow from it,” Shari Doud said. “Ugly things can happen. Bad things can happen. It’s what you do with them. A lot of positive things have happened since than, and I can’t say enough about the overall great position in life I am in right now.”
The Royals coaching staff has been bolstered in the process with the addition of Steve Doud as a volunteer assistant coach along with Shari’s father and longtime assistant, Ed Clark.
“This is something I’ve always dreamt of doing, coaching with (Steve) on the same sideline instead of us always watching each other coach. I always thought it would be awesome to put our minds together and coach a team,” Shari Doud said. “Mt. Vernon’s loss is my gain. I will take his basketball brilliance.”
Steve Doud coached the Mt. Vernon girls basketball team for three seasons, winning 21 games in his first year in 2014-15 and 17 games in 2015-16.
In his final campaign, the Marauders were 6-17 after graduation decimated the team’s offensive production with Indiana All-Star Sydney Shelton and standout guard Ariana Sandefur both moving on to the college ranks.
Steve Doud was the Mt. Vernon varsity boys coach from 1996 to 2006. His teams racked up 87 wins in 10 years and the girls compiled 44 victories in his three seasons.
“I’ll be their No. 1 fan,” Steve Doud remarked on his former program. “This next year was going to be the first year, I could say, these are my girls. The juniors this year were freshman when I took over. They’ve really improved over the course of the past three years.
“The bottom line is I resigned. I’m out of the program, and I’m no longer their coach, but I’ve really enjoyed working with the girls. I didn’t know what to expect, being a boys coach before, but I really had fun with it the last three years.”
To replace Steve Doud, Mt. Vernon went back to the past, as Julie Shelton, a 2017 Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame inductee applied and was approved by the school board as the new girls basketball coach last month.
“There was potential of Julie being interested in this position, and we had a great conversation with her. We had several great applicants, but when her name came across, we knew there was no doubt in our minds this was the direction we had to go for our basketball program,” Mt. Vernon athletic director Brandon Ecker said.
“When she expressed interest, we obviously knew the success she had here at Mt. Vernon before, averaging 16 wins a year in what was a 20-game schedule. It was a no-brainer for us.”
Shelton, formerly Julie VonDielingen, was a 1989 Indiana All-Star at Seymour High School, scoring 1,564 points and 912 rebounds in her career. She set nine school records and won three sectional and regional championships.
She excelled at Butler University as the women’s program’s all-time leading scorer with 2,018 points, earning All-American honors.
She spent 16 years as the girls head coach at Mt. Vernon and led the program to 260 wins, including a 2013 Class 3A state championship and a 2012 3A state runner-up finish.
In 2014, she became an assistant women’s basketball coach at Buter. In 2017-18, she returns not only as head coach at Mt. Vernon but will serve as an assistant athletic director.
“When she was last here, we won four conference titles in a row. We had a state runner-up and a state championship back-to-back,” Ecker said. “Things were in great shape, and Steve (Doud) did a great job in the meantime. Julie in her time here did extraordinarily well. Her impact on Marauders basketball from 1998 to 2014 was unquestionable. We know from 2017 to a long time from now, she will have the same impact.”