Try 1 month for 99¢

If there had been class basketball when he ran the floor, former Lowell boys coach Steve Leonard would have played and coached in all four classes.

He played at Class A Eminence and coached at LaCrosse, also in Class A. His resume also includes stops at North Judson (then it would have been a Class 2A school), Mount Vernon in Fortville (Class 3A) and Lowell (4A).

Leonard said he is not only a proponent of class basketball, but would like to see a fifth class added, much like a sixth class was added in football a few years ago.

"I think you can have that 'super class' with the big schools," Leonard said. "I think it would be good for the 4A schools like Highland and Lowell, and many schools throughout the state who suffer an enormous enrollment discrepancy in Class 4A.

"Class basketball is a great idea and has given the smaller schools a chance, but it also depends on what pocket you are in."

Leonard is still coaching, working with the seventh grade boys team at Lowell Middle School, and loves it.

"I love teaching the game and working with kids no matter what age," Leonard said. "At this level, it is more than 'Xs and Os.' It is keeping the attention.

"Don't forget you are dealing with 13 and 14 year olds. You have to remember that they do not have a long attention span, but they are all willing to work and learn. I am really having a blast, a good time coaching."

Leonard won sectional titles at LaCrosse, North Judson and Lowell. He was the Red Devils' coach from 1981-97 and is the program's winningest coach with 193 victories. He won two boys basketball sectionals. The program has won four total with Jack Ford winning the other two. The 1993 team won the program's first regional game, before falling to Michigan City Elston in the Michigan City Rogers Regional championship.

His contract was not renewed after the 1997 season. He went on to coach at Purdue Calumet under Larry Liddle and serve as an assistant to Jim East at Merrillville. He had the opportunity to return to LaCrosse, coaching from 2001-09. After that he was an assistant to John Steinhilber at Hebron.

"I got a chance to coach college ball and I really appreciate that opportunity," Leonard said. "I worked as an assistant for excellent coaches Larry, Jim, and John."

It has been a great career for the 1965 Eminence High School and 1970 Indiana State University grad. His life growing up on a farm is as much part of Hoosier lore as the basket on the side of the barn.

"We had one in the barn too," Leonard said. "All the kids did. That is what we did when we weren't doing chores around the farm. My dad put those up for us."

Leonard remembers interviewing for the LaCrosse job, one of the smallest high schools in the state.

"I interviewed in the barnyard of the (town) trustee and he offered me the job," Leonard said. "I guess LaCrosse will always be special to me because that is where I got my first head coaching job."

His success with the Tigers led him to North Judson. LaCrosse upset the Bluejays to win the 1977 North Judson Sectional and the next year, he was North Judson's coach.

"That was a great sectional, smaller schools, packed gym," Leonard said. "I have had the opportunity every place I have been to be associated with great people."

To submit a "Where Are They Now?" idea, contact Mike Nieto at mike.nieto@nwi.com or (219) 933-3232.

0
0
0
0
0

Sports Director

Hillary has covered prep, pro and college sports -- and even a Dixie Baseball World Series -- for newspapers north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line since 1995.

Jason is a sports copy editor and avid traveler whose goal is to see and do everything before he expires from this mortal coil. Also, mosquitoes find him delicious.