| || |
By Al Stilley
Senior staff writer
Southport High School legendary basketball coach Bill Springer – after more than three hours of socializing with former players – had the opportunity to speak to the thousands of fans assembled Nov. 20 inside Southport Fieldhouse.
Standing with former players and the families of three other Southport coaches in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, Springer said, “We are only here tonight because of you (players). … Always remember, nothing is more important in your life than faith and family.”
That was one of the life lessons that Springer’s players learned. On Bill Springer Night, Springer, who won 178 of his 539 career wins with the Cards, was honored with former coaches Jewell Young, 17 years, represented by son Rich Young; Carl “Blackie” Braden, 250 wins, represented by son Mark Braden; and Marilyn Ramsey, coach of the 1980 state championship lady Cardinals, represented by team standout Amy Metheny.
Banners honoring those coaches were displayed for the first time Nov. 20. Springer added a Southport Pride Award to his induction into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and the school’s Wall of Fame in 2012.
The Cardinals won eight sectionals, one regional and one semistate under Springer. In 1990 the Cardinals upset Lawrence North and Eric Montross for the regional title. In front of 41,046 at the Hoosier Dome, the Cardinals fell to Mr. Basketball Damon Bailey and Bedford North Lawrence in the state finals. Indiana Sports Network broadcaster and Southport alumnus Steve McClure called Southport’s tourney run a “magic carpet ride.”
After the on-court ceremonies, Springer told The Southsider Voice, “This has been a tremendous night with all the fellows coming back from all parts of the country. I don’t know what effect I’ve had on them; but I do know what effect they’ve had on me.”
On this festive night the Cardinals’ pep band played during the boys and girls games between Southport and Perry Meridian; a “miracle minute” raised funds for Best Buddies; and a teddy bear toss at halftime of the boys game resulted in 123 bears for use by police and fire departments and women’s shelters.
In a unique battle of a Perry Township doubleheader, Perry won the girls game 59-44 before Southport captured a thrilling boys game on a buzzer-beater, 45-43. Springer was the honoree at a pregame reception with scores of former players available to be interviewed. Here’s what they had to say:
• “He changed the culture in the right way. His basketball lessons were life lessons.” – Todd Hottell, 1985 sectional championship team, Class of 1986.
• “Coach had a great basketball mind, but everything else we learned from him about life still applies to me and my family. It all goes back to hard work and discipline.” – Mike Ausbrooks, Class of 1993.
• “The validity of his experiences – he’s been there; he’s done that. Whenever he came in and talked to us during our practices, the kids remember that.” – Kyle Simpson, former Bloomington South player and former Southport coach.
• “I was a freshman in his first year here. He brought a system and a process. It was very similar if you watch ‘Hoosiers.’ It was defensive orientated, structured, keep a great attitude, be disciplined. It was hard-nosed basketball. To this day I still teach my kids the same structure, the same process. Just have pride in yourself.” – Kent Deger, Class of 1986.
• “I just wanted to get him more championships, and we were able to get him two sectionals back to back and that was cool. We were winners.” – Leon Northern, Class of 1994.
• “The history, the sectional titles, the regional showings – that’s what made playing here very special. I had the privilege to dress for the Final Four, and that was an unbelievable experience in the Hoosier Dome. … I took what he taught me about becoming a leader.” – Chris Robinson, Class of 1992.
• “He taught us that hard would pay off.” – Shawn Rhodes, Class of 1998.