PREP BEAT

JIM PETERS: Wilson career move a leap of faith

2013-07-04T17:15:00Z 2013-07-08T14:57:23Z JIM PETERS: Wilson career move a leap of faithJim Peters Times Columnist nwitimes.com
July 04, 2013 5:15 pm  • 

Over the last 16 years, Candy Wilson built Boone Grove into one of the top girls basketball programs in the area.

Her teams notched 247 victories and hadn't had a losing record since George W. Bush was elected.

Once-proud Valparaiso, on the other hand, has managed just 15 wins in a three-year span.

Put the two together, and it makes absolutely no sense that Wilson would leave Boone for Valpo, to become the junior varsity coach to boot.

"It's kind of funny," Wilson said. "I'm going to be 41. When you're younger, you're worried about being the head coach, being in control of everything. As you get older, you see the bigger picture. You reach a certain point in your career when it's not about what position you're in. The title part is something I don't have to have right now. It's not a big deal."

When Wilson made the surprising move, the assumption was that something either went wrong at Boone or she was assured she would be Valpo's varsity coach when Joe Otis retires.

Or both.

Try neither.

"There was absolutely nothing wrong, no reason to get out," Wilson said. "It was a long time to be (at Boone). The kids are great. (Telling them) was the hardest meeting of my life. Sometimes, it's just nice to move on to something new, to try something different when you have the chance to do it. The timing was right in my career. It's nice to leave on my own terms. Some people wait too long."

Wilson applied for Valpo's varsity job. When it was given to Otis, she was asked if she would be interested in coaching the JV, working on a high-profile staff with Otis and Jack Gabor, also a long-time boys coach.

"They wanted to make a statement that they were taking things seriously," Wilson said.

I'm guessing most coaches with Wilson's resume would've said no. Not Wilson, who said there was no handshake deal that she would take over in a few years.

"If I'm ever offered, great, but I'm happy with what I'm doing now," Wilson said. "Joe's a great guy. He has a great reputation for collaborating with his coaches. (Otherwise), I wouldn't have done it. Jack brings so much to the table. Joe's made us both a very integral part of what's going on. They're going to be great to work with and learn from."

There were other key factors involved. Wilson will teach middle school alternative school, which is housed at the high school. Wilson lives 10 minutes away in Chesterton, where she went to school. She's excited to be back in the Duneland Athletic Conference she remembers as a player. The shorter drive helps on the gas gauge and will be particularly nice when the snow flies, though it will take some adjusting.

"I've already done it twice. I've gone straight down Meridian and turned to go over to 49," she said. "I'm sure at some point there'll be a couple games, and I'll do it."

In her brief time at Valpo, Wilson has enjoyed herself, working with roughly 30 girls at open gym.

"It's a great environment," she said. "Everybody's so welcoming. The kids are eager to do things. The truth is, experience in life is the best teacher. My first few years (at Boone) weren't very good. The whole program building is very familiar territory. I'm very comfortable right now."

Wilson could've spent the rest of her career at Boone and retired with more than 500 wins. That would've been the safe move. Don't be surprised if she's back coaching the 7:30 games before long, but you still have to admire her for taking the leap and not losing sight of why she chose a career in coaching.

"It sounds corny, but I'm going to go and make a difference," she said. "It's about working with kids every day. What I do is going to matter."

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at jim.peters@nwi.com.

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