News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 30, 2008

Amey Takes Aim: Maroska’s legacy leaves gap to fill

By Andy Amey

TERRE HAUTE — Long, long ago, when I was young and stupid (stupider?), I thought I wanted to be a high school basketball coach in Indiana.

Just like every other guy, and quite a few of the girls, in the state, in other words. Fortunately I was eventually dissuaded from pursuing a career in which everybody else in your neighborhood knows more about what you’re doing than you do.

Back when Joe Hart was coaching at Dugger, for example, I kept hearing from a lot of people what a bad coach he was. Then I got to the state finals one year and discovered that three of the 16 coaches with teams in championship games were Joe and two of his former players.

That’s about 19 percent of state-finals coaches that year from the Joe Hart coaching tree, in other words. I haven’t seen any other coaching lineages from this area top that.

Now Alan Maroska is out as girls basketball coach at Terre Haute South, after undergoing similar scrutiny during his 20-plus years of coaching and a winning percentage approaching .700. Whether he was a genius or not is not for me to evaluate. But here are some things I do know.

• When it comes to state championships won, the score is Maroska 1, everybody else who has ever coached a Vigo County varsity high school basketball team 0.

• When Reicina Russell left South after her junior season and that state championship to go play for one of the state’s so-called coaching experts, her development as a player went backward.

• One of the most overachieving high school basketball teams I’ve ever seen was the 1991 South girls team led by Mandy Miller, Julie Davis, Emily Shelton, Beth Harrah, Becky Hellmann, Tammy Scott and Annie Donnenhoffer. That team had, if memory serves me correctly, one Division I athlete (Mandy, in softball), and probably four of its seven-player nucleus considered basketball their second-best sport (Julie was a track star, Emily might have been better in volleyball and Annie was a softball standout like Mandy was). It got to the final eight in the state tournament, basically one good quarter shy of the Final Four.

I’ve already heard two names that could go in the hat as South’s new coach, and I look forward to working with whomever is chosen. I can’t help adding one caution, for the benefit of everyone involved, however.

Be careful what you wish for.

• • •

Here’s more basketball news:

• Claps for the Thunder — The Terre Haute Thunder 14-and-under girls team won the USBF national championship recently.

The girls, all from Vigo County, finished their travel season with an 18-2 record and will be entering eighth or ninth grade in a couple of weeks. I’ve officiated games involving several of them, and can promise you you’ll be hearing about them.

At the national tournament at Fishers, they defeated the host Fieldhouse Wildcats 39-34 for the championship and also posted wins over the Indiana Elite 46-32 and the Midwest Storm (from Springfield, Ill.) 47-31.

The team’s roster is Nicole Anderson, Claire Bailey, Erin Barton, Tasia Brewer, Kaylee Ellis, Kayla Ennen, Hannah Lee, MiKayla Metheny and Brooklyn Waters. Rob Ennen is the coach, assisted by Frank Bailey.

Most of them have played together since fourth grade, compiling a 64-14 record in that time. In all those years, they’ve failed to reach the championship game of a tournament only three times.

• State well represented — USA Basketball’s U18 national girls team recently wrapped up two weeks of training at Colorado Springs.

Included on the 12-player roster are two Indiana players, South Bend Washington’s Skylar Diggins and Heritage Christian’s Kelly Faris.

• • •

• Other stuff — After writing about his team’s forfeit at the Little League state tournament for 11-and-under all-star teams a few days ago, I got an e-mail from Oliver Page of South Bend.

He wasn’t happy about his team being labeled cheaters — as I wrote back, he and his teammates were among those who were cheated, out of a chance to compete — but he concluded his letter this way:

“It’s a shame when winning becomes so important that you lose all perspective. Good luck to all of the teams in the tournament.”

Sounds like a pretty sharp 11-year-old to me. I hope to see him next year at the 12-and-under state finals.

And my longtime eight-fingered fraternity brother “Fast Freddy” Weaver — some of you may know him from umpiring, others for general mischief — wrote asking how I wrote so much about South Carolina last week without mentioning NASCAR.

And he’s right. I should have mentioned that while looking for a souvenir to bring home for Ryan, I couldn’t find NASCAR stuff anywhere in the Myrtle Beach area, not even at the truck stops along the interstate just outside Darlington. Jenny and I had to drive all the way to Darlington itself, and even there the only souvenirs were at the track itself.

Sounds like a rare failure of that sport’s marketing to me.

Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. for comments or news items at (812) 231-4277 or at 1-800-783-8742; by e-mail at; by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.