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Next coaching hire crucial for Greenfield basketball

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It happened like clockwork.

Each Friday night this past winter that the Greenfield-Central boys basketball team took a loss, an email (or several) would flow into the Daily Reporter’s sports inbox lamenting the state of the Cougars’ varsity program.

We never published these Wows ’n Whistles items because the criticisms weren’t constructive and served no purpose other than bashing, mostly the head coach.

Josh Johnson stepped down three weeks ago following five often frustrating seasons for G-C fans. I’m sure the campaigns weren’t always pleasant for Johnson, either.

But with a complete overhaul of the Greenfield youth basketball league at his direction, Johnson felt like he was building toward something resembling competitive seasons at the high school.

I recently had a discussion with an area (non-Hancock County) varsity basketball coach who gave consideration to pursuing the G-C job when it came open following Jeff Bertsch’s tenure ending with the 2008-09 season. For his own reasons, mostly being happy with his own coaching position at the time, this coach didn’t try to land the Cougars gig.

He did, however, make a prediction: “I remember saying at the time, Johnson will go in there and do a good job building it up. And about the time they’re ready to turn the corner, they’ll lose patience with him.”

Patience was indeed lost by a good portion of the fan base following seasons of five, five and three victories the last three seasons. Whether Johnson’s teams would have turned the corner, we’ll never know for sure. Had he returned without any progress, though, things would have undoubtedly gotten even uglier for Johnson, a good man and, from all accounts, excellent teacher in the classroom. Johnson, still a relatively young coach, clearly decided it was in the best interest of he and his family that he step away from the sideline, at least for a few years.

What Johnson has left behind is a burgeoning youth program and at least one certifiable varsity standout in Tate Hall, an All-County first teamer this past winter as a sophomore shooting guard for the Cougars.

Popular opinion on Internet message boards is that the G-C boys’ position is a “terrible job,” but I’m not buying it. The Cougars’ schedule isn’t brutal by 4A standards and in a school of 1,400-plus kids (700 boys, obviously) – plus the aforementioned now-healthy youth program – there’s no reason the talent can’t be found and shaped to garner at least .500 seasons on a consistent basis.

Somewhere around 40 applications have been submitted thus far for the open Greenfield-Central boys basketball coaching position, with several more sure to follow prior to the May 7 deadline.

The next Greenfield school board meeting is May 12 – not a lot of time to whittle down and interview dozens of candidates – so we’ll probably have a new local boys basketball coach officially tabbed at the June 9 meeting, unless a special board gathering is called in the interim.

As the sports editor of the local newspaper who would like nothing more than to receive a bunch of Wows and very few (unprintable but often entertaining) Whistles each Friday night, here’s hoping the capable Greenfield administrators hire a coach with a proven, winning track record at the 3A or 4A level.

The Cougars need a coach with a sectional title or two under his belt, who will command instant respect and get this program off the ground and into the win column.

The next G-C boys basketball coach will cement the reputation of the program, and in many ways the reputation of the school as a whole given basketball’s place at the top of the athletic hierarchy in the Hoosier State. In just about every other sport at G-C, conference and sectional titles have been won in recent years.

It’s time boys basketball reached that level.


Speaking of coaches coming and going, did we witness Frank Vogel’s last home game as coach of the Indiana Pacers on Monday night during the Game 5 debacle? His strategies defending the Atlanta Hawks have come under attack and, although I’m not smart enough regarding Xs and Os to pile on, his use of the bench during his time with the Pacers is curious, at best.

Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee and DJ Augustin are just a few guys that were borderline laughingstocks during their time with the Pacers that have blossomed under other systems – and coaches. Much has been made of the Pacers’ starters: They’ve logged more on-court minutes together than any other unit in the league. Now, they look lazy and disinterested. It’s also possible they’ve just been run into the ground while capable talent – namely Chris Copeland, but also CJ Watson (a better point guard than George Hill) – spend too many minutes on their butts.

Brian Harmon is The Daily Reporter sports editor. Contact him at (317) 477-3227 or at bharmon@greenfieldreporter.com. Follow the GDR Sports Department on Twitter @GDRsports.

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