GREENFIELD — In Michael Lewis, Greenfield-Central officials found everything they were looking for in a boys basketball coach.
Lewis, of Delphi, was hired as the new G-C coach at a school board meeting Friday morning. During and after the gathering, administrators praised Lewis for his winning record, passion and teaching ability.
“We really appreciate the enthusiasm and energy Michael is going to bring us,” G-C principal Steve Bryant said when introducing Lewis, who went 57-33 the last four seasons at Class 2A Delphi, located a few miles northwest of Lafayette.
Lewis replaces Josh Johnson, who resigned in April after five seasons and a 27-80 won-loss mark.
Like Johnson, Lewis is a math teacher, a role he’ll assume at G-C. The 95% ISTEP rate of Lewis’ students at Delphi was also noted by Bryant on Friday.
“In this day and age, you’ve got to be a teacher first,” said Lewis, a 2002 Bedford North Lawrence and 2006 Indiana University graduate. “And I think they like that I’m a teacher first.
“I take that way more seriously than being a basketball coach. I think basketball is an extension of the educational process. If I get an opportunity to teach well in the classroom, then I’m going to teach well on the court, too.”
In his move to Greenfield, Lewis is returning to his Class 4A roots.
Lewis, 30, was a self-described “role player” on the Bedford North Lawrence regional-title squad of 2001. The Stars went 60-32 in Lewis’ four prep seasons under coach Mark Ryan.
“I grew up in a basketball community that just loves their sports," Lewis said. “That’s one thing about (Greenfield) – it’s very similar, about the same size of school, same demographics.
“So I’m looking forward to getting back in a big-school setting.”
Following high school and graduation from IU, Lewis was an assistant coach for three seasons at Delphi before taking over as head coach in 2010-11.
In six seasons prior to Lewis’ ascension to head coach, the Oracles went 40-88 under three different coaches with no winning seasons.
The Oracles were 15-16, 14-19 and 19-6 the first three campaigns under Lewis, with a sectional title in 2012-13, followed by a 9-12 mark last season.
Lewis has earned a reputation for his basketball acumen, according to G-C assistant athletic director Doug Laker.
“He’s very knowledgeable,” said Laker, who was part of the coach search committee. “In coaching circles, people glow about him. He’s young, he’s energetic. He knows the game. And he’s a great guy.”
Lewis faces a similar rebuild at Greenfield to what he encountered at Delphi.
The Cougars haven’t posted a winning record since 2003-04, a span that covers three head coaches prior to Lewis.
“I inherited a group of kids who wanted to work really, really hard,” Lewis said of the Delphi turnaround. “They bought into the system, they bought into the culture. And they deserve a lot of the credit. When you get kids that want to work hard and buy in, it’s easy to make growth.”
From what Lewis has been told, he’ll be inheriting the same types of student-athletes at G-C.
“I know that coach Johnson has done a great job putting the pieces in place, so I’m very excited for the progress he’s already made,” Lewis said. “We just want to continue to move forward.
“I really really believe that this can be a special place. I’m excited about the kids they have coming back. I know they worked really hard for coach Johnson. I expect the same thing back for me.”
In 2014-15, the Cougars are expected to return eight of 11 varsity players from last season’s 5-18 squad. Among the key cogs are incoming junior shooting guard Tate Hall (team-best 14.8 points per game) and incoming seniors and leading rebounders Cole Oleksy (8 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and Zach Batton (4.5 rpg).
At Delphi, Lewis’ three winning teams averaged 60.3 points per game and allowed 51.1. The Oracles dropped off to 43.6 points per game offensively last season, but posted a four-year best 44.7 defensive average.
Lewis said the Cougars’ style of basketball this winter will depend on the personnel.
“I think one of the first things I learned about being a high school basketball coach was you have to be adaptable to your players,” he said. “The one thing I can guarantee is we’re going to compete hard for 32 minutes. That’s going to be the standard. We’re going to compete every possession and play until the buzzer sounds."