April 4, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.

Irvine looks back at long-time coaches' careers

By By Chuck [email protected]

EDITOR'S NOTE: In the coming weeks and months. HSJ online will take an in-depth look at three individuals that have played major roles in developing and maintaining highly successful athletic programs at Hauser High School. Together, they have helped produce results which surely are the envy of many IHSAA schools.

David Irvine makes no bones about it.

His two decades at the head of Hauser's athletic program has been unarguably successful and his job responsibilities much narrower because of two individuals that applied and were hired by the Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corporation to do their thing.

One of Hope's pride and joys is currently in the midst of heavy-duty change. New faces will replace the very familiar.

After 20 years -- Irvine is in the act of trying to retire. He will soon "disappear" from official status. The year 2017 will find a new face occupying space in the Athletic Director's office.

After 20 years -- The reins of the varsity baseball program - one of southern Indiana's finest - are in the process of being passed on by Jerry Schoen, a true jewel with widespread notoriety.

After 20 years -- The basketball facsimile of the diamond sport may be on the verge of a similar transition. Bob Nobbe - the proud owner of every coach's dream possession, a gold ring - is at least thinking about life after coaching.

Irvine -- all kicked back and relaxed when recently discussing the Eastern Bartholomew County icons -- just smiled and smiled some more. Looking back, he confidently proclaimed that things have been good since the day the two signed on the dotted line.

"They both arrived here sharing a lot of the same philosophy for doing the right thing," said Irvine.

Irvine's "right thing" is pretty basic. Reading between the lines was never a necessity for understanding where these guys were coming from.

"It kind-of has always started with being on time," he explained. "And then being respectful and being good sports."

They have been - or been used by their boss - as role models from Day 1.

"I have always told the other coaches, sometimes in a roundabout way, 'Run your program the way the basketball program is run. Or run your program the way the baseball program is run.'"

Irvine is pretty sure he knows why the duo was ready to produce the good stuff upon arrival.

"They both came here having had experience in programs that were run the right way," he explained. "They brought that experience with them.

"Obviously... obviously - they both have made my job so much easier," he continued. "I didn't have to push any buttons. They did the pushing. They both pushed their athletes to do the right things."

And with rare exception, that "pushing" has not resulted in the AD having to provide "cover" for his coaches. Sometimes coaches overdo. Parents of athletes resent and fail to understand.

"When kids around here have reached varsity level, they had already known what would be expected of them," Irvine said. "They knew it wouldn't be easy (staying at that level). They also knew that to remain there, they really had no choice. Over time, most of the athletes here have bought into their philosophy. And for the sake of the entire program, their philosophy has drained down to the other coaches."

How so?

"Easy," Irvine answered. "It's been contagious."

While appropriate coaching has helped stimulate appropriate growth and maturity in the young people at the high school, according to Irvine, the coaching has also produced predictable outcomes in the field of "battle."

The Nobbe-directed state championship and the Schoen-directed near miss both speak volumes as loudly as any amount of "W"s could ever speak.

"When they were hired, they came in with a winning attitude," recalled Irvine. "Our new volleyball coach was of the same mold. It was like a trifecta."

Just how unique was the hiring of Schoen and Nobbe?

"In this day and age, having excellent faculty members that also coach is extremely rare," said Irvine, who once upon a time graduated from Columbus High School. Right now, we have two classroom professionals that also coach. All the rest are lay coaches.

"The connections Jerry and Bob have built in the classroom have carried over to the practice field and the gymnasium. Neither of them has ever given me the fear that either they or their players would do something to embarrass the school."

Has it always a bed of roses?? Irvine scratched his head and maybe smiled just a bit.

"Well sure, there have been a few instances that might have been less than positive, but each time things were handled immediately and with efficiency," he said. "I have always known that each of them would handle the problems and do whatever needed to be done."

Just what does need to be done? A quick change of hats - when necessary - has never been a problem. Irvine had a flashback.

"I had a salesman from Cincinnati stop in one day," the former head Jet said. "He came to talk to me about equipment. I kind of explained to him that Jerry and Bob didn't seem to ever order anything they didn't need. And then if there was a need, they would always be on the front lines helping raise the money."

The salesman knew both coaches. The chat continued.

"He reminded me that we had hired two of the greatest guys we could have ever hired," said Irvine. "He was adamant about his feelings. At that point, we weren't totally sure what we had hired. But the salesman was right. Twenty years later, we know he was exactly right."

Two decades ago, the school administrators did not hire clones. Neither did they hire opposites - polar or otherwise. Former athletes at the school would probably concur.

"I'll tell you this," Irvine said. "The results of what they do are usually about the same. Either one would chew you out. But each will pat you on the back when the time comes."

Regardless of school size, athletic success on the fields of battle is generally cyclical. There are good times . . . and not so good. At a tiny school - like Hauser - these inevitable cycles can be more pronounced and long-lasting. Like every great stock analyst, these coaches have weathered the storm clouds. They have experienced little difficulty keeping the "big" picture in sharp focus.

"When you have experienced success, it is easier to look down the road," said Irvine. "These guys have been able to endure the down times because they have always been able to focus on and celebrate the little successes. They have been able to keep the kids positive.

"They've never lost sight of the light at the end of the tunnel," he continued. "It takes time and effort to stay connected with the younger kids. They have consistently done that in the hallways and out in the community."

Future Jets of all shapes and sizes have always been familiar with the head coaches.

"The 10-year-olds know these guys," said Irvine. "And they understand at a young age that these guys run successful programs."

This story - as told by Irvine - is chock full of positives and void of negatives. How then has this small county school with an annual enrollment smaller than a mid-sized elementary school managed to keep such quality corralled?

"I'm sure each of them has thought about leaving and maybe they have even interviewed other places," Irvine explained. "I have always told them they would have had my complete support if they had a desire to move on.

"But this is a great place to work and teach. Hopefully, it always will be. A lot people have left here and then come back to say they wish they had never left."

With a light chin rub and a very slight smile, Irvine may have summed it up with, "Maybe the grass is just greener here."

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