Happy 35th anniversary to coach Tom May and the 1984 Crown Point girls basketball team!
When the Marquette Catholic girls basketball team won back-to-back state titles a little over a week ago, I thought back to May's teams that won state titles in 1984 and 1985. The 1984 team went 26-0 and captured the title in dramatic fashion by beating Warren Central 55-54 in overtime.
I reached out to May to learn about those Bulldogs' teams and received a master class in athletic success.
Leadership should come from your best player(s)
Just as Sophia and Emma Nolan were leaders for Marquette Catholic, May also had a couple of super talents during his first state title year in 1984.
May can not say enough good things about Anne (Kvachkoff) Equihua — the standout on those great Crown Point teams — and how she led the way during the pinnacle of Bulldogs basketball.
"It's a necessity," May said. "She had the finest talent, a great work ethic, unselfishness and concern for others. And she had high-in-the-sky leadership abilities."
What May said about Equihua could also be the best way to describe point guard Nancy Cowan-Eksten. Equihua led Crown Point with 17 points in the final and Eksten added 15.
Eksten and two other starters graduated from the unbeaten squad and Crown Point's odds of repeating didn't appear strong.
That set the stage for Equihua to do her best work as a leader.
May said that great teams learn from losses and poor performances.
And school was in session halfway through the Bulldogs' second run for a title. Crown Point struggled during the first half of the season and lost four games during the 1984-85 season.
And here is where May goes all Belichick: May said every player had to know her role.
That came in handy in the 1985 finals when May said Equihua sprained her ankle in the first quarter. She returned and finished with a game-high 17 points. Sandra Grabowski-Jarboe added nine in the win over Wawasee.
And the 'doing your job' rule included May, who studied other top schools and colleges to make the Bulldogs better.
"I learned quickly that mediocrity is excellence to the mediocre," he said.
You watching my back?
May said his Bulldogs success was keyed by having a great support staff.
May pointed to everything from his assistant coach Scott Reid to the parents of the players to loyal fans who sold out home games and traveled well (and loudly) when the Bulldogs played road games.
And whoever said coach's wives deserve a special place in heaven won't get an argument from May.
"Nancy and our two kids gave me support I badly needed," May said.
All the lessons May learned led him to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
Equihua and Eksten were first team all-state and went on to Division I schools.
And no less than eight of May's former players have gone on to coach either high school or college basketball.
"You have to continue to learn and find ways to learn from the best," May said.