Pete Auksel had the distinction of playing or coaching under three Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame coaches in John Baratto, John Molodet and Everett Case.
He played for Baratto at East Chicago Washington and Molodet was Baratto's assistant. Auksel was an assistant to Molodet and succeeded him as the Senators coach. Auksel was an assistant coach on the 1971 Washington undefeated state championship team.
Auksel played for Case at North Carolina State, who is also in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Case is one of only five coaches to win at least four state titles in Indiana basketball.
"The one thing bout all three is that neither one played basketball," Auksel said. "One thing they did know was how to coach. They taught you to play 100 percent at all times. Coach Baratto, he really knew how to get the most out of you. They taught discipline and skills that you could use after basketball."
Auksel had successful careers after basketball as he spent 36 years in the School City of East Chicago and also 20 years on the North Township board of trustees. He is now retired in Florida with Carolyn, his wife of 50 years.
The 1959 Senators were ranked No. 1 and considered one of the best teams in the school's history as they beat Crispus Attucks, the 1959 state champ, in the regular season.
"The place was packed," Auksel said. "We had standing-room only, five, six deep. That was definitely a great era for basketball for East Chicago and the Region. Froebel, Tolleston, East Chicago Roosevelt, Hammond High and Bishop Noll. Man, did we have some great games."
The 1959 Senators were upset by Lafayette Jeff in the semistate, 56-52. His teammates included John Dull, Santos Jimenez, Ron Divjak and Phil Dawkins. they were household names in their era. The second five were pretty well known too. 1960 Trester Award winner Bobby Cantrell, who helped lead Washington to the 1960 state title, Nick Berzak, Jim Bakos and Daryl Williams were also on the 1959 team.
"We just had great talent coming through the (Indiana) Harbor," Auksel said. "We had great coaches, great community support and we loved to play basketball."
The 1977 Washington team lost to Carmel, 53-52, in the state finals, Molodet's last game. Auksel took over the next year. His 1979 team ranked in the top ten in the state was 16-5.
"We had a big dropoff in talent from what we had in years past," Auksel said. "We had talent, but it just was not like what Baratto and Molodet had."
Auksel earned a degree in mathematics from North Carolina State 1964 and a masters in secondary education from Indiana 1971.
Growing up in the Harbor was a great time and he enjoyed it. At the time, Inland Steel, Youngstown Sheet & Tube, General American and Union Carbide were the biggest employers in East Chicago.
"You had five shows off Main and Broadway," Auksel said. "We had the simple things. We loved to go out and play basketball. We had a lot to do just in town. Everybody had good jobs and we had old-fashioned values.
And a lot of the winter life revolved around the area of Grand Boulevard and Columbus Drive, the site of Washington High School. Everyone was always anxious for the basketball season to begin.
"Sometimes, it was hard for us to get to the locker room because of the (overflow) crowds," Auksel said. "Come sectionals, they had to have a lottery for season-ticket holders. It held about 6,500, but it seemed like there was 10,000 or more in there. Great atmosphere."
The same was true at the Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, home of the North Carolina State Wolfpack, he said. The crowds were enthusiastic and followed the team wherever it played.
"Just a great place to play with all the tradition," Auksel said. "At the time, the ACC was the most physical league around. Reynolds was a tough place to play if you were an opponent."