At 27, Donovan Garletts is among the youngest coaches to lead a team to the state finals.
The scenario is nothing new to the Crown Point graduate, who took over Marquette Catholic in 2010 when he was 23 and joined the staff at Bloomington South as a college freshman.
"I've never thought the age issue had anything to do with it," Garletts said Monday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. "I look around, and I'm in awe, but I'm not overwhelmed.
"I don't take it for granted. Some coaches wait their whole career. It's like (Michigan State coach Tom) Izzo said, it's 85 percent the players, 15 percent the coaches this time of year. It's the players who got us here, not me. You won't find a group that's worked harder. They're gym rats."
Saturday's Class A state final is a contrast of experience, with Bryan Hughes having coached longer (29 years) than Garletts has been alive, 22 of them at Barr-Reeve. It's his fourth trip to state with the Vikings.
"I never got this far at that age," Hughes said. "I'm very humbled. Somebody asked me if I felt any pressure, not having won. How many coaches in the state never get the opportunity?
"As a coach, I can at least relate to the players what will happen, how it's going to be, but it's what they do once the ball is thrown up."
Garletts cut his teeth under legendary Bloomington South coach J.R. Holmes. He recalls walking into Holmes' office in 2006 asking if he could be involved in any way.
"I didn't know he was the A.D., too," Garletts said. "I only went there because it was closer to where I lived."
He latched on at the freshman level and was on the bench, "keeping rebounds or something," in 2009, when the Panthers won the 4A state title.
"Though I more or less was just along for the ride, it was an incredible experience for a young coach," Garletts said. "I learned so much, a lot of my philosophies, from them. J.R. is one of the calmest coaches around, in practice or a game. I've never seen him get a technical. I'm a little crazier than he is."
The next year, when Garletts took over at Marquette, the Catholic school situation was quite an awakening.
"Coming from Bloomington, it was totally different," he said. "A big school, a public school, the tradition, all the elementary schools running the same thing, I told my wife -- my fiancee at the time -- it was going to be a tough road, and it was."
Marquette went 4-16 in Garletts' first season, but an infusion of talent spurred the program. The Blazers lost by a point to Triton in the 2012 and 2013 sectional finals. They have rolled through the current postseason with five double-digit victories.
"I'm very fortunate to get here quickly. It's a lot quicker than I ever imagined," Garletts said. "A lot of it, I attribute to having great coaches. Our staff is incredibly well-versed. They've been around the block a few times. This is great for our school, the community. This is Indiana, and this is basketball. To have a team here from Michigan City, it's an incredible blessing."
Assistant Jim Bracewell is impressed with what Garletts has done in a short time.
"Donovan's created an environment a lot of good high school players have to take a real serious look at," Bracewell said. "I like the way he handles things. He's going places, and he's done it with an academic foundation. He doesn't mess around."
Junior Ryan Fazekas likes how Garletts can relate to players while maintaining control over the program.
"Being so young, he brings a lot of energy, but he also gets on us, which is good," Fazekas said. "If there wasn't as much discipline as we have, we may not be in the state run that we are."