Senior staff writer
This is a tale of two high school boys coaches who are familiar to Southsiders.
First-year Greenwood Christian Academy coach Jonny Marlin is a former Center Grove basketball standout who played for three different collegiate teams in the state.
Former Indiana All-Star and Butler standout Zach Hahn has rejuvenated the boys basketball program at Center Grove since he arrived four years ago.
Both are young, energetic and passionate about basketball and the school community they serve. Each brings rich basketball experiences and a fresh perspective to their players.
Marlin, 3-3 through Dec. 21, measures victories in the most meaningful way. Although he attended public high school and two non-religious affiliated universities, the 5-10 mentor is a devout Christian and proudly claims he was raised by God-fearing parents.
“That’s the best part of this job; I get to speak to these players about Jesus freely,” Marlin said. “I’ve always had a passion to coach and to partner that with discipleship was a no-brainer.”
Marlin considered his coaching efforts as a winner during the first few days of practice with the Cougars. He revealed that he had two players accept Christ and two more who wanted to be baptized.
The 2011 graduate of Center Grove led the Trojans to a sectional championship, played one year for Indiana University-Purdue Univeersity at Fort Wayne and transferred to Indiana as a preferred walk-on for one season, capping a life’s dream to play for the Hoosiers.
However, he wasn’t able to fulfill his role as a disciple, so he transferred to Indiana Wesleyan, where he starred for two seasons, leading the Wildcats to the NAIA national championship in 2016 and earning the Pete Maravich Award. He also was a first-team NAIA All-American.
Marlin said his coaching style is a combination of his former coaches: Tony Jasick at IPFW (now Fort Wayne), Tom Crean at IU and Greg Tonagel at Indiana Wesleyan, where he served as a graduate assistant coach while completing his master’s degree.
At Greenwood Christian he succeeded Jamie Satre, who set the foundation for a solid basketball program.
“These kids have fun playing basketball, and they like to play together,” Marlin said. “I want them to play with discipline, yet there’s freedom. I want them to go out and play fearless and rely on instinct instead of thinking about what they have to do or where they need to be on the court.”
The Cougars started the season by losing their first three games before defeating Bethesda Christian, Lutheran and Southwestern.
An Indiana All-Star from New Castle, Hahn played for Brad Stevens at Butler and reached the NCAA championship game for two consecutive years. Does anything more need to be written?
Yes, mostly because of Hahn’s leadership abilities.
He was a team captain at New Castle, for the Indiana All-Stars and at Butler. He served as an assistant coach for three years at Ben Davis under Franklin Central coach Mark James.
Hahn – in virtually every interview with The Southsider Voice – doesn’t talk much about individual players; it’s all about the team.
The Trojans have one of the nation’s top players in 6-9 Trayce Jackson-Davis and are 8-1 with game Friday night against Greenwood, followed by a trip to Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference foe Carmel on Jan. 5 and the Johnson County tourney.
He talked briefly about Jackson-Davis’ improvement from last season to his junior year: “He’s matured physically. His focus is better. He’s totally orientated; he’s driven now. His offseason work matches his in-season work and when you do that, you improve.”
Hahn praised his players for their work ethics and maturity.
He admits that he has changed as a coach. “I’ve always had higher expectations, but I’ve given the players more responsibility. The first couple of years you want to run the show and get everybody doing exactly want you want. Here in Years 3 and 4, I get to sit back a little more and watch the kids work and run the show. That’s hard for me because I like to be vocal and a leader for our guys.”
“It’s been a big learning curve. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that the more you trust your players, the more they will give back to you and the program,” he said.
This is the fourth year for seniors under Hahn’s tutelage. “It’s nice having some upperclassmen know what you’re trying to do.”