When Julie Shelton announced her departure from Mt. Vernon for Butler on Tuesday, she took with her one of the most effective basketball minds Hancock County has ever known.
Butler women’s head coach Kurt Godlevske made the smart decision to add the Marauders’ girls basketball coach to his staff, joining former Indiana University legend Damon Bailey, who came on as an assistant last week.
Shelton, like Bailey, has a storied playing career. An Indiana All-Star for Seymour, Shelton went on to become Butler’s all-time leading scorer. The Midwestern Collegiate Conference Player of the Year in 1992-93, Shelton remains the lone Butler women’s player to tally more than 2,000 career points.
I never knew Shelton (formerly VonDielingen) as a Bulldog, but I imagine her playing style was much like the Mt. Vernon teams she coached: smart and vicious.
If the Marauders got beat, which, with Shelton’s .706 winning percentage, was rare, it was only at the hands of a more physically talented team. Turnovers and other mental basketball mistakes were not tolerated in Shelton’s 16 seasons at the Mt. Vernon helm.
Now, Shelton will seek to shape those same traits in college athletes. I’m not convinced Shelton is done as a high school head coach. In a few years, she might decide the lure and challenge of being in charge of a sideline is worth revisiting. Assuming, of course, Shelton doesn’t take a college head coaching job.
She has the patience and demeanor to succeed at any level of coaching.
Fun fact: In her entire time as a high school head coach – through 367 games – Shelton received one technical foul. It’s not that Shelton wasn’t demonstrative; she didn’t hesitate to rip into a player when needed (her postgame locker room “talks” could be heard throughout many a high school hallway). And while she would occasionally give an official an earful, Shelton never got caught up in blaming the referees. (Paul George could learn a thing or two from her).
Shelton is a coach devoid of ego or selfish showmanship. If she met an error-prone player walking off the court for a heart-to-heart in front of the entire crowd, it was for the player’s own good, not for the sake of her own personal glory.
She could, for the most part, care less what parents thought, or the media, or the fans. Shelton’s purpose was singular: to get the very best out of her players.
And she did it again and again.
Sixteen seasons, only three of them with losing records (her worst W-L result: 9-12). Five sectional titles. Ten seasons of at least 15 wins. A total of 260 victories against 107 losses. A Class 3A state championship in 2012-13. A host of conference and county crowns.
It’s not that big wins that stand out to me, however. It’s the sheer competitiveness of Shelton’s teams that was most impressive, and unique. The Marauders, under Shelton, went all out all the time.
Injuries, suspensions, a larger-school foe – none of them were excuses for anything less than maximum player effort.
Mt. Vernon, under Shelton, was just one of those teams you could never count out of any game, regardless of circumstance.
I remember traveling to Hamilton Heights in November, 2011, for an early-regular season game. MV defeated the Huskies in the sectional championship the previous February, and Hamilton Heights was clearly looking forward to revenge.
The Huskies were loaded that 2011-12 season – they went on to finish 21-5 – while Mt. Vernon had graduated all-around standout Kayla Negley and was without Indiana State recruit Makenzi Reasor (illness) that November day.
In front of an initially boisterous, healthy crowd, Mt. Vernon ran the host Huskies out of the gym, 71-60, in a game that wasn’t that close. Hamilton Heights was playing under a first-year coach in that game. Their former head coach moved into administration and looked on from the sideline for the HH-Mt. Vernon rematch. I can still recall the look of total disgust on the face of the former coach. It was great.
Time and again, Mt. Vernon, Shelton’s girls were the hardest workers in the building.
Over her final 150 games dating back to 2008, Shelton’s teams lost by more than 10 points on nine occasions. Some programs are lucky to escape one season without nine double-digit losses.
For the most part, Shelton’s squads won by controlling the defensive side of the ball. For a season preview, I once asked Shelton what kind of offense MV would run. This was maybe a week before the season began, and Shelton said something to the effect of, “Not sure yet.”
She was more concerned with defensive effectiveness; and if that fell into place, points would come at the other end.
Shelton will be missed by this sportswriter. I admired her no B.S. attitude. She wanted to win. And she did win. Period.
She had the respect of her players and was well-liked as a teacher.
As with any head coach of any sport, she probably wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But, then again, some people are idiots.
Godlevske, Butler’s coach, is a smart man. And his gain is Hancock County’s loss.
Brian Harmon is the Daily Reporter sports editor. Contact him at (317) 477-3227 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Season W-L Title
2012-13 23-4 State
2011-12 23-6 Semistate
2010-11 21-2 Sectional
2004-05 19-7 Regional
2002-03 19-6 Sectional
16 seasons 260-107 (.706)
* 5 sectionals, 3 regionals, 2 semistate, 1 state title
* Also won Hoosier Heritage Conference championships in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2001, 2000