STEVE HANLON: It ain't like it used to be

2014-05-29T19:30:00Z 2014-05-29T22:33:05Z STEVE HANLON: It ain't like it used to beSteve Hanlon Prep Beat nwitimes.com
May 29, 2014 7:30 pm  • 

When Mike Hackett started his career as a teacher and boys basketball coach 20-plus years ago, the landscape of Hoosier Hysteria was much different. It was like an old movie with Gene Hackman.

Having a head coaching position in Indiana was like owning a winning lottery ticket. You held onto it with a white-knuckle tight grip. Nothing got in the way of the dream.

Hackett, the head coach at Munster and president elect of the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association, understands it's a different age.

"We don't have the lifers like we used to," Hackett said.

This week Tim Feddeler was hired as the new athletic director at Bishop Noll, after three years as North Newton's boys basketball coach (7-56). The revolving door is spinning faster these days.

Scot Spoljaric has stepped down at LaCrosse. Kevin Sims is out at Rensselaer. The beat goes on and on and on.

According to the Hickory Husker website, the best hoops website in Indiana, there are 113 coaching openings in Indiana this year. There were 125 last year.

"It didn't used to be like this," Hackett said.

There are several factors causing this trend. First, class basketball has put more pressure on coaches at small schools. The "get your trophy or go home" mentality has made it tougher at the smaller schools.

Plus, the small public schools are in a battle against private and charter programs to keep their best kids at home. Also, there are pop-up prep schools with big, empty promises opening doors in the back of strip malls.

It is harder to coach at a small public school today than before class basketball began.

Also, budget cuts in the Indiana education budget has limited movement. Hackett explained that if he ever left Munster wherever he went he would be at the bottom of the seniority list. If extreme budget cuts ever came to a district, he, or someone like him, would be the first to go.

"Before the cuts, schools used to create a position for a coach they really wanted to bring in," he said. "There isn't much of that going on these days."

Hackett also pointed out how the job is now year-round without any breaks is starting to push some coaches out. With all the added pressures there is a point where some are saying, "Enough is enough."

Throw in Brandon Ridenour at Gavit. A very good high school coach up and left town. The frustrations of not being about to get over the hump was too much. Region basketball will not be the same with Ridenour gone.

There will surely be more coaches stepping down. The game is changing in a big way. Yes, Bowman Academy and Lake Central played in front of a sold-out crowd in Indianapolis in the 3A and 4A state championship games.

It's in the smaller places where the game needs a boost.

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

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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