STEVE HANLON: 'Stepping down' on the critics

2013-04-19T17:00:00Z 2013-04-20T22:22:08Z STEVE HANLON: 'Stepping down' on the criticsSteve Hanlon Prep Beat nwitimes.com
April 19, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

For all you knuckle-draggers crawling out of your caves, here is a sentence for you. And for all you Nike-wearing troglodytes, this applies to you, too.

Joe Otis did NOT take a step down when he switched genders on Tuesday night and moved from the Valparaiso boys basketball head coach to the Vikings' girls hoops skipper.

Many I've spoken to have said such a thing. But people once thought that the world was flat as well.

"I don't think so," Otis said. "Our girls program is just as storied and successful as our boys."

Otis coached LaPorte to the 1997 boys final Final Four. He went 361-216 in 26 years as a boys coach. He is a sure Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer. But he believes coaching girls is greater than the boys.

And, of course, he is right.

"Just look at the math," he said.

Valparaiso won 17 sectionals, 10 regionals, four semistates and had two state runner-up finishes from 1984 through 2005. You take away Bryce Drew's green run to Indianapolis in 1994 and the numbers don't lie.

Otis was 65-27 in four seasons with one sectional title as Valpo's boys coach. He's replacing Jeanette Gray, who went 28-58 over the last four years.

Vikings girls hoops have been awful. They will not be anymore.

Otis proudly spoke of former star Cassie Kerns recently winning a NCAA championship at UConn. His quick-witted one-liners will also be refreshing on the girls side.

"There are more astronauts than women who have won a NCAA championship," Otis said.

On staying in the Duneland Athletic Conference:

"I had to find the one conference in the state where I wouldn't be the oldest coach," said the 61-year-old Otis, poking fun at Chesterton's Jack Campbell.

On bringing excitement back to the Valparaiso girls basketball program, he said, "I'll ride an elephant into the gym if I have to."

When the Slicer train rolled to Indianapolis in 1997 as the nation watched, Otis wore a bright orange jacket that caused the cheerleaders to wear sunglasses. When he returned to his alma mater he brought green leisure suits that would've made Soupy Sales jealous.

"I'm keeping my jacket," Otis said. "It's not like I'm handing it down to anyone."

It may take some time. The Lady Vikings have been so bad of late it would take a magician to turn it around overnight. But if anyone can do it, it is Otis.

Otis is following Dale Ciciora, who also left Valpo's boys basketball job for the girls. Ciciora led Valpo's girls to the 1982 state championship game.

Those with a Fred Flintstone IQ surely mocked his decision, too. And like today, they were all wrong.

"We've had six Indiana All-Stars and a great history," Otis said. "I've got to sell that to our girls. I can't wait to get started. This is going to be challenging and a lot of fun."

Paint that line on the wall of your flame-lit cave.

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

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