By Craig Pearson
TERRE HAUTE — I must have missed the memo — got tied up with TPS reports — on this fall being the time to resurrect former Indiana State coaches.
A week after former ISU coach Dennis Raetz was named interim head football coach for the Sycamores replacing Lou West, Royce Waltman has been named interim head basketball coach at the University of Indianapolis.
Indianapolis coach Todd Sturgeon announced he was stepping down, citing personal reasons, and he may be getting out of the profession altogether. Waltman confirmed Tuesday that Sturgeon’s young family is “among the top reasons” for his leaving Indianapolis.
After Royce Waltman’s 10-year tenure at Indiana State ended in March when his contract was not renewed, Waltman was as straightforward — as he is about any topic — about his future.
“I can’t get a head coaching job, because if you get fired for cheating you can get rehired, but if you get fired for losing, it’s like you have leprosy,” Waltman said. “… I’d like to stay in basketball, but I’m realistic. I don’t want to go back to Bedford [Pa.] High School and coach the team and that’s about the only job I could get. For the right guy, I’d be an assistant, I’d be a scout. I’m not ready to retire.”
Waltman found the right guy to be an assistant for when Sturgeon offered him a job to help coach the Greyhounds on July 6.
“I have mixed feelings,” Waltman said Tuesday. “My intention was to come over and help [Sturgeon’s] team as much as I could. I really appreciated that opportunity. I’m really concerned that everything works out for him.”
At the same time, Waltman is fired up to be a head coach again, even if it is under the interim tag.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m excited to have my own team again,” said Waltman.
Waltman will be a college head coach in the state of Indiana for the 20th straight season in 2007-08.
Sturgeon played for Waltman at DePauw, with the two reaching the Division III national championship game together. When Sturgeon graduated, Waltman had an assistant coaching job for him. When Waltman left for Indianapolis, Sturgeon came with him. When Waltman was hired at ISU, Sturgeon would have came along, but Waltman’s former pupil was offered the head coaching job at U of I.
The two had an 86-49 mark in five years at Indianapolis, winning the Great Lakes Valley Conference title and earning the No. 1 ranking in the nation in their final year. Then Sturgeon became the first Indianapolis coach to reach three straight NCAA Tournaments from 2003-2005 during his 10-year tenure as head coach.
In nine years, Waltman had a 171-78 record at DePauw and Indianapolis — all with Sturgeon as an assistant.
Waltman’s start at Indiana State, which included consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament in 2000 and 2001, had many believing he would retire as Sycamores’ coach some day. But ISU struggled to six straight losing seasons and last-place finishes in the Missouri Valley Conference in five of the past six years.
Indianapolis had a strong start last season but finished up at 13-13. Waltman’s exhibition schedule this season will include a game at Purdue and at Wright State. The Dayton, Ohio, school is coached by another former Waltman player, Brad Brownell. DePauw’s all-time leader in free throw percentage is likely to be a candidate for some top-tier college basketball jobs if his success continues.
The University of Indianapolis, according to the school’s release, said it will begin a national search for a coach after the season. While Raetz’s plans are to only fill a void at ISU, Waltman believes he can still coach and looks at this season as the time to prove it to a school and to himself.
“I think what transpires this season would be what would determine that, whether I’d be interested or they’d be interested. Just see what happens this year,” Waltman said.
Craig Pearson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone after 4 p.m. at (812) 231-4357.