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More than just Otis taking over Valparaiso girls basketball program

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coach Joe Otis

New Valparaiso girls basketball coach Joe Otis shares pointers during practice Monday. Veteran coaches Candy Wilson and Jack Gabor join Otis in coaching the Vikings this season. 

VALPARAISO | Minutes before the first official practice of the girls basketball season and the excitement was palpable in the Valparaiso coaches office.

Joe Otis sat behind a desk rattling off a combination of coaching statistics and geographic locations that would impress even the most learned historians while Candy Wilson could do nothing but shake her head one desk away. Jack Gabor looked at the clock in anticipation, raring to get back on the hardwood.

Three successful coaches. One beleaguered program. It’s game on for the Vikings.

“I don’t think of these two as assistants,” Otis said. “We all have a voice. We’ll all give our input and we’ll go from there.”

Otis moved across the gym this spring after handing over the Valparaiso boys program to his former assistants. He took over a girls program that was in need of a coach after Jeanette Gray resigned to spend more time with her family. The Vikings have won just 15 games in the last three years and haven’t won a sectional title since 2005.

Bringing Gabor into the fold didn’t even require a formal interview as Otis has known the former Griffith coach for 40 years. Getting Wilson on board was the work of Valparaiso athletic director Herb Hofer. Wilson, the longtime head coach at Boone Grove, was interested in the varsity position, and Hofer approached her with the junior varsity/assistant offer after Otis took over the program.

“This has been really refreshing for me,” Wilson said. “There are not as many things that I have to individually deal with. There are three of us here and we make a good team.”

Spending any time with the trio of coaches is like stepping into a comedy routine with three of the sharpest wits in Northwest Indiana. All three are known for the propensity to jabber with officials during games and even Wilson suggested they aren’t sure who will be the most vocal this season.

“That could really depend on the game,” Wilson said with a smile. “We may have to alternate which one of us gets kicked out.”

Jokes aside, the three have come together to attempt to turn Valparaiso back into a winning program. The Vikings will have just one senior on the roster this season along with what Otis estimates will be “something like 14 juniors.” Facing an ambitious schedule in the first year with Duneland Athletic Conference round-robin scheduling, Otis is looking for sustained success down the road.

“We’ll be putting in a lot of the foundation for what we’re going to be doing here and it will be similar to what we did with the boys,” Otis said. “We’re going to get out and try to press some. I think we’ve got a good defensive basketball team. Our problem last year was with turnovers and scoring. It will be interesting to see this unfold.”


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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.

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