HAMMOND | It's winners week in Indiana. We've been doing this for 104 years. Ain't it fun?
From Angola to Zionsville champions will be crowned at 64 boys basketball sites on Saturday night. The time-tested climbing up the ladder with scissors in hand will be the glorious exclamation mark.
Joe Delgado will be at the Hammond Civic Center on Saturday night. The coach at Clark, though, will not be coaching. He'll be helping his school's support staff as they host the Class 3A sectional.
With Clark's 46-34 loss to Gavit on Tuesday night, the Pioneers finished their season 0-22. They were one of three schools out of 403 entered in this tourney who finished the 2013-14 season without a win.
The other two were Class A schools Howe (0-20) and Indianapolis Arlington (0-21).
Delgado is not a poor coach at an awful school. In 2006, '07 and '08 he led Clark to sectional championships. Close losses to Andrean and Plymouth in the regional was all that kept this program from taking a deeper run.
But Delgado made a tough decision in November. It cost him wins. All of them. But it was, without question, the right thing to do.
"We had some kids who started for us last year who were having issues in the classroom, they were displaying bad attitudes," Delgado said. "They were not the kind of kids we wanted representing our school or our program.
"So we cut them."
He knew his young team would take a beating this winter. But there were things more important than wins or championships.
"We had to teach the kids a lesson," Delgado said, as Bowman Academy and Lighthouse were playing on the floor on Wednesday night.
How many coaches or schools have turned a blind eye when one of their best athletes were allowed to continue to behave poorly? And looking back, how hollow were those wins when the youngster never learned the most important lesson.
High school sports are there for fun and competition, but the most important thing is to prepare young people for life. Period.
"I knew this was going to be a rebuilding year," said senior Kalil Frith, a 6-foot-4 forward who averaged 11 points and eight rebounds for the Pioneers. "I was the only one returning with varsity experience. But I agree with what coach did. I want to be a coach some day. You have to do the right things.
"I took a lot of pride in leading our young team. Coach Delgado always says, 'Basketball is a game. There's more to life than that.'"
Delgado took great pride in game officials, bus drivers or custodians complementing the behavior of his winless team. They were taught to say "Thank you" or "Yes, sir" or "Yes, ma'am,"
"That means a lot more to me than 10 wins," Delgado said.
On Saturday night, after the championship game, another ladder should be brought out on the Civic Center floor for Delgado and his Pioneers. And the steps on this ladder should be higher than 10 feet.
There are many definitions for a champion. Delgado's is the best, most important. They are the champions.