Senior staff writer
Greg Stilley, the senior center on Greenwood High School coach Bruce Hensley’s first sectional championship team in 1991, vividly remembers his first day of college basketball practice as a freshman at St. Xavier (Ill.) University.
“The coach (Jack Keesler) had me demonstrate man-to-man defensive principles because I knew it better than anyone else that he had on the team,” said Stilley who discussed Hensley’s attention to detail and fundamentals and the impact he had on his high school days and beyond.
“The discipline and life skills that he taught were far more predominant than basketball,” said Stilley, who is an executive at OneAmerica. “The discipline that I apply to my everyday life came from him, far more than any other teacher or college coach … he was a teacher on the court.”
Stilley also revealed that Hensley allowed the senior-laden team to call their plays late in the 1990-91 season because of his trust in them.
Many of Hensley’s former players and assistant coaches were on hand Feb. 21 as the veteran Greenwood coach was honored in pre-game ceremonies and at a postgame reception.
T-shirts commemorated Hensley’s 28-year coaching career. He was announced as the first athletic coach to be honored on the school’s Wall of Fame. Woodmen Adam Rapp, Will Wolf and Sean Moss also were honored on senior night.
Hensley is retiring from coaching at the end of this season. He will continue teaching trigonometry and pre-calculus at Greenwood. He has the notoriety of playing for the Woodmen in their first game in the same gymnasium where he coached his final home game last week.
This was a night for Hensley to remember although the ice-cold shooting Woodmen fell to Indian Creek 53-36.
“It was an emotional night because all those guys who played for me are very special,” he said. “This night brought back a lot of good memories and solidified why we did what we did for so long.”
Hensley’s career resulted in 264 games won (43.1 percent), including a 52-35 record from 2002-06. The Woodmen faced sectional host Franklin Central Tuesday with hopes of springing an upset.
Former players understood Hensley’s focus and intensity.
It paid off for the Woodmen with a sectional title in 1991 against Franklin before bowing out against Bloomington North in the Columbus Regional. Hensley’s second sectional title team went one game farther in 2002 when it defeated Avon in the Hinkle Regional opener but fell to No. 2-ranked Pike.
Eric Osen, an Avon Middle School teacher who was a senior on the 2002 team, praised Hensley, saying, “Bruce is like a father figure to me. His coaching style was very hard-nosed, no excuses; just like real life.”
More former players and coaches spoke about Hensley as a coach and teacher.
Edinburgh High School athletic director and former assistant coach, Dave Walden: “His teams are always prepared and defensive-minded; his attention to detail is outstanding in the classroom and on the basketball court.”
Tomorrow Realty Realtor and former assistant coach Joe Farley: “He would run a drill into the ground until they got it right because he was trying to get them to master a certain skill. He was demanding and hard-nosed but all his players knew he was fair – he didn’t play favorites.”
Greenwood Principal and former Perry Meridian High School assistant coach Todd Garrison: “Coach Hensley’s teams were the most prepared teams we faced each year. No team knew our sets, players and tendencies like his Greenwood teams.”
He and wife Marcene have three children, daughter Malorie, sons Derek and Devon, a sophomore baseball player at the University of Indianapolis, and one granddaughter Allison. Marcene is the daughter of former Indianapolis 500 driver Eldon Rasmussen.
Hensley plans to enjoy his family, play golf and attend a few motor sports events in retirement.