Former Cougars coach lands dream job at Rushville

0
2150

RUSHVILLE — A three-year starting center for the Rushvillle Consolidated High School basketball team, Doug Laker helped the Lions capture sectional championships in 1985 and 1987.

Thirty-some years later, Laker is charged with leading the Lions to glory once again.

The former Greenfield-Central girls basketball head coach has been hired as Rushville’s new boys basketball coach.

“It’s a dream come true,” Laker said prior to the Rushville school board meeting Tuesday.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]

A 1987 Rushville alumnus, Laker took over the Greenfield-Central girls basketball program in 2008 after several seasons as a boys basketball assistant at Rushville. His Cougars went 129-77 in nine seasons, highlighted by a sectional title and 23-5 campaign in 2016.

All told, Laker has been part of seven sectional winners — two as a player, four as a Rushville assistant (under Jerry Craig and Kerry Brown) and one as a head coach.

“He has a proven track record of building a championship program,” Michael Lewis said of Laker, his former colleague at G-C, where Lewis was the boys basketball head coach. “I was always impressed by his work ethic, team building and how he cared most about building championship people.

“Doug Laker is a first-class coach and a first-class person.”

Lewis, now in charge at Western Boone, went 42-33 in three seasons at Greenfield-Central before resigning in May, 2017 — one month after Laker stepped down.

Laker cited pressure from administrators to resign from the girls basketball post. Greenfield-Central superintendent Harold Olin declined to go into specifics at the time in the midst of outspoken player and parent support for Laker.

“There’s bad things that went on at the end, but overall the Greenfield experience was a positive,” Laker said.

Laker was replaced by Joshua Means, one of his former assistants, who lasted one season. Former Greencastle coach Bradley Key was recently tabbed as the Cougars’ new head coach.

“I’m so lucky that my first head coaching job was at Greenfield-Central,” Laker said. “Nine years of coaching girls basketball was a blessing. I’m a better coach for it. Going against some great coaches … I’m talking female coaches that could coach males. And I went against alot of them; Melissa Marlow (Rushville), Shari Doud (Pendleton Heights, Eastern Hancock), Julie Shelton (Mt. Vernon). They’re great coaches, I don’t care what sex they are. It’s made me a better coach.”

Laker won’t have any problem transitioning to being in charge of a boys program, according to his former head coach.

Ken Stanley led the Rushville boys basketball team from 1984 through 1990. He was also a longtime assistant coach, including for the 1976 Lions squad that lost to Marion in the State Finals.

In his extensive sideline experience, two players stood out to Stanley.

“Doug and my point guard (Scott Lacy) for my two sectional teams were the best leaders I ever had,” Stanley commented. “Not necessarily the best players, but they were the best leaders. I think of Doug like a son.”

Stanley said the Lions wouldn’t have advanced to the 1987 regional final without Laker’s influence. On Rushville’s Senior Night of that season, Knightstown — which went on to win the New Castle Sectional — defeated the host Lions by 20 points.

Two weeks later, the squads met again in the opening round of the regional.

“And I have never seen a player rally the troops like this,” Stanley recalled. “Doug and my point guard, they sat the team down and said, ‘We’re not going to let them beat us again. We are going to have the best week of practice. We are going to knuckle down.’ And, lo and behold, we beat Knightstown in the first game of the regional by 14. That just typifies the type of leader he is.”

Laker will be able to focus extensively on coaching. For much of his tenure at Greenfield-Central, he was the high school assistant athletics director and junior high school athletics director. A Rushville resident, Laker will work solely in the private sector for a sports equipment vendor and for his family’s agriculture equipment business.

“It all kind of fell into place,” Laker said. “Right time, right place. I always told myself I wouldn’t go back to coach in my old town. But, as you get a little bit older, you start thinking, ‘Yeah, it’s time to go back.’

“When I go to work during the games, I’m going to be in front of 1,800 or 2,000 people who are very passionate about the game of basketball. The crowd is right on you, and they expect your team to play hard. That’s tradition. That’s Indiana basketball. It’s a thrill.”

Laker will take over for Steve Goddard, who retired. Dan Carmony — another former Greenfield-Central coach — led the Lions to their last sectional title in 2008. Rushville has managed one winning season in the last seven years.

“It’s a program I want to get jump started again,” Laker said. “It’s kind of went backwards ever since Kerry left. Tradition and pride and toughness, we’ve got to get those back. And that’s my job.”