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April 22, 2018

4/9/2018 7:49:00 AM
Nobbe's career brings him to "home, sweet home"

By Chuck Grimes
For HSJ Online


EDITOR'S NOTE: In this, the fifth article in a series chronicling the 20-year varsity basketball coaching career of Bob Nobbe, a close look is taken at why he chose Hauser over other high schools. And perhaps more significantly, why the Greensburg native chose to stay.

For those who know much of anything about basketball in Indiana, the name Jack Butcher is very familiar.

To a somewhat lesser degree, the name of Bob Nobbe might ring a bell.

And then, more than likely, only those fans who have been paying real close attention know the name Rick Bechtel.

While this trio had vastly differing amounts of success directing young b-ballers, there are a couple of common threads that they shared.

THREAD #1. They were darned good at what they did.

For those who don't know much, Butcher is the coach who put Loogootee High School on the basketball map and then kept the tiny school in southern Indiana there for a long time.

Butcher's 806 win total is the most ever amassed inside the borders that outline Hoosier Hysteria. More than likely (but don't mention this prediction to either Bloomington South's J.R. Holmes or Lawrence North's Jack Keefer), what Butcher accomplished down in Martin County will never be surpassed.

Obviously, Nobbe's 275 victories in 20 years falls a bit short of Butcher's total. But Nobbe accomplished something Butcher never had a chance to savor. He directed his team to a state championship.

As for Bechtel, this writer was not able to research how many victories the Edinburgh Lancers achieved with him at the helm. While his coaching career was short, it was long enough to impress a large number of people (this writer/coach included) around the state.

THREAD #2. This trio coached at tiny high schools.

All three remained in one place throughout their careers. All three - more than likely - could have left.

For the record - Butcher turned down an opportunity to join the Boston Celtics organization before he returned to his home in southern Indiana. The Hall-of- Fame coach retired some time ago. Nobbe and Bechtel each remain in social studies classrooms at Hauser and Edinburgh, respectively.

WHY? Any or all could have marched up the coaching ladder to bigger schools.

"I stayed because I liked everything about the opportunities I was being given here," said Nobbe without hesitation.

But admittedly, Nobbe was no different - at least in the beginning - than most.

"Like most young coaches, I wanted to do well and if there were opportunities, I wanted to look at them," he said. "I did some interviews. But a friend (that had moved from a small school to a large one) told me there definitely were differences between the two."

Friday night atmosphere was one big difference.

"I would think on most game nights, our gym was close to full," said Nobbe. "Here, there always was close to 1,500 wanting to watch these kids. I'd look on TV news and see big gyms with just a handful of people in them."

The fan base in Hope seemed to be a bit more solid than some of those in bigger towns where 'going with the flow' was the rule. When the tiny Jetport was consistently crammed, the majority of seats in bigger gyms were empty.

"Even during seasons when we weren't doing as well, people were still here wanting to support the program. They were still here asking what they could do or asking why we hadn't beaten Southwestern the previous year," he added, smiling. "In my opinion, what we had was Hoosier Hysteria in its purest form.

"Here, kids played consistently in front of a consistent fan base," said Nobbe. "Some kids play for four years and never see a crowd bigger than 200."

Nobbe clearly remembered IHSAA sectionals at Edinburgh and the week leading up to them.

"At school here, the halls were decorated and we had big pep sessions," Nobbe said. "Excitement would build. Tickets were sometimes hard to come by."

And according to the coach, big school appeal just wasn't the same. At Hauser - it was what it was. The cycle didn't always produce an abundance of athletes.

"But in those down years, it was good to know that the decision makers and community members still appreciated that the kids were playing hard and doing their best," Nobbe said. "Expectations were always high, but folks understood that there would be dips. As long as we were doing things the right way, putting school first and hopefully helping produce quality individuals, it didn't matter that much that we didn't win every game."

Bryce Mize was a member of the state champ team in 2006. Now a coach and math teacher at Greensburg High School, Mize was quick to praise Nobbe's approach.

"Coach Nobbe was definitely a no-nonsense coach, but looking back on it, I think that is why we had successful teams," he said. "Disciplined habits established by coach kept us focused and in check throughout our high school years. Everything was team-oriented and that made us feel more like a family.

"He made sure we were always doing the right things and that we were appreciating and thanking the community of Hope," continued Mize. "Most importantly, he was preparing us to be good men. It's something I work hard at and carry with me as a coach today."

The community of Hope?

Nobbe never used any big words when describing his take of the community. Words like mystique or mysterious or charisma or glamour never entered into the conversation. Maybe it was the size or lack thereof that hooked Nobbe. The coach still struggles somewhat when discussing the glue that kept him attached.

"To start with, I didn't get lost walking down the hallway," he said, grinning. "But more than that, it may have been a biddy ballgame I attended shortly after being hired.

"Early on, I went to a future Jets' game," he recalled. "I went in and sat down somewhere in the bleachers. At that point, no one knew who I was. Two older gentlemen came and sat down - one on each side of me."

The coach (from the BIG city) and the two local farmers began to talk.

"It was outgoing, friendly and easy conversation," said Nobbe. "It was obvious they loved their sports. It struck me dead on that this was a good place to be. It was close to home."

Still, a lot of young coaches start careers close to home before heading to parts unknown. Nobbe was like most of the rest.

"Did I think when I started here that I would stay here?" he asked. "Probably not. Like most others, I wanted to do well. But when there were other opportunities, I'd look into them. I did some interviews but never became that interested in leaving."

But had Nobbe overstayed his welcome and fallen victim to one disgruntled parent whose relative was a school board member - he wouldn't have been the first. A Hall-of-Fame coach who started his career up the road at Southwestern in neighboring Shelby County could certainly testify to the dangers of small town politics.

"I don't think I ever had the feeling from administration or the school board that I was under-appreciated," he said. "I put a lot of pressure on myself. Obviously the year we most mightily struggled, I was always wondering, 'How did I let this happen?'"

Nobbe was asked if he ever had an angry parent start a petition.

This writer remembers clearly one such situation in neighboring Brown County. One parent can really stir the pot. The pot was close to boiling over until an uninvited member of the local press showed up with his note pad. All of sudden, no one at the clandestine gathering at the local motel cared to be "officially" associated with such an event. Heavens!

But in the (good?) old days, that was often how things got done and decisions made in small communities. In some hot beds . . . such was Hysteria.

"I don't believe anything like that ever happened (during his 20 years)," said Nobbe. "Unless it was happening without my knowledge."

Which in the town the size of Hope, it wasn't likely to have happened anonymously. And if it did, the "anonymous" folks would have had mighty flimsy evidence on which to base their case.

Under Nobbe's two decades of directing quickly-paced action at the Jetport, the Jets won close to 70 percent of their games. Like all who have been there and done that, Nobbe's memory of much of that success is more-than-solid.

Of course, an instant replay of the 2006 state championship game can be rebooted in detail - start - to - finish. And with no prodding, the details of another game - the year wasn't mentioned - was loaded into the projector for a quick trip down memory lane.

The place was S. Marr Road in Columbus.

"I know for sure that on that night, we beat Columbus East for the first time," Nobbe recalled.

"They tied us at the buzzer on a shot that hit the rim, went straight up and came straight down and went in," he said. "I kind of figured we would not be able to maintain in overtime, but we weathered the storm. We did maintain and we won the game.

"My wife would say I'm crazy," he continued. "But I remember that shot so clearly."

Such is life inside the head of one whose passions in life include bits and pieces of Hoosier Hysteria.

NEXT: Nobbe and Jerry Schoen - Hauser High School's two coaching jewels - both hired at the same time and calling it quits at the same time from their respective helms, sit down for a joint interview.





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