WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Where Are They Now? Gene Flowers

2012-12-31T12:00:00Z 2012-12-31T17:43:11Z Where Are They Now? Gene FlowersMike Nieto mike.nieto@nwi.com, (219) 933-3232 nwitimes.com
December 31, 2012 12:00 pm  • 

Anyone who knows about the lore of Hoosier Hysteria knows about tiny Milan's upset of Muncie Central in the 1954 Indiana state basketball championship at Butler (now Hinkle) Fieldhouse.

The movie "Hoosiers" was based on that game, with tiny and fictitious Hickory upsetting South Bend Central.

Former T.F. South boys basketball coach and assistant principal Gene Flowers was on the losing side of that historical moment in Indiana basketball.

"I was on South Bend Central," Flowers joked, referring to the movie. "Yes, they slowed the ball on us and we were a running team. I guess at the time, you never think that 30-some years later it would be a movie."

Flowers, then a junior, said the Bearcats, coached by Jay McCreary, expected to play Terre Haute Gerstmeyer, coached by Lew Wallace grad Howard Sharpe, in the title game.

"They had the Harley and Arley Andrews, and we wanted to play them," Flowers said. "I remember we were at the old Claypool Hotel and we beat Elkhart (Central) in one semifinal. We said, 'Now we'll (the school) have four (state championship) rings.  We figured we'd run on Milan. Boy, were we surprised."

Muncie High School had won the state title 1931 and Muncie Central had won in 1951 and 1952. It was the Bearcats who got caught watching the paint dry, as Hoosier lore goes, and Bobby Plump, Ray Craft and Milan became legends.

The next year, the Bearcats did not make it back to Indianapolis, but Flowers was an all-state running back on an 8-1 football team and earned all-state honors in basketball for the second straight year. He was also an Indiana All-Star and earned a basketball scholarship to play for Branch McCracken at Indiana University, where he was team captain in 1959.

He recalls a game against Butler.

"It was back-and-forth and we took the lead," Flowers said. "Branch hated to lose to (legendary Butler coach) Tony Hinkle. I tripped Plump, who played for Butler and the referee called the fifth foul on him. He looked at me and said, 'Flowers, you tripped me!' I said, 'Bobby, I got even for 1954.'"

Flowers coached at Clinton Central and Springs Valley (where Larry Bird attended) before moving up north and across the state line to T.F. South, which was a relatively new school. He was an assistant football coach under Joe DeSoto and Al Freyman. He became the head boys basketball coach in 1967 and stayed until 1975. He then became an assistant principal at the Lansing high school.

"We had some competitive teams at South," Flowers said. "My last team in 1975 won 17 games. I still keep in touch with some of my players."

He left teaching and was in the insurance business before returning to education to become the principal of Burnham Elementary School.

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