By Al Stilley
Southport’s Harold Metheny is a retired U.S. Army veteran who proudly served his nation overseas in France.
He served overseas in 1958 and 1959. With his Hoosier roots, it’s no surprise that he also played basketball on the base team throughout the country in 1958 and appropriately coached the team in 1959.
Teams from Army bases in France played each other on weekends. Metheny compared the men’s basketball quality to NCAA Division 2. He was a Specialist 4 and supervised an ammunition warehouse at a base several miles from Paris.
Of course, it was appropriate that he played basketball in addition to his other duties. He had played basketball at Shelburn High School and graduated in 1952. He later graduated from Indiana State University.
When he returned to Indiana from serving in the U.S. Army, he taught government and U.S. history at Carlisle High School where he was an assistant boys basketball coach. Metheny and his wife Diane moved to Southport in 1962.
He was recently honored as the 2020 Indiana Fever Silver Medal Award recipient for his contribution to girls basketball on the Southside with the induction class of players honored by the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. The award is presented annually to an individual who makes an outstanding contribution to Indiana high school basketball but not as a player or coach.
Metheny and his wife are the parents of daughters Amy, Krista and Rachel. Amy was a member of the Southport state championship team and an inductee into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. He also coached them in softball leagues. They played basketball at Southport High School collectively from fall 1976 through spring 1984. Amy graduated in 1980, Krista 1983, and Rachel 1985.
He created the Baxter YMCA summer league for high schools in 1974 that eventually developed and attracted the top girls basketball players and teams from central Indiana. Their three daughters played in that league.
Metheny had wanted to coach high school basketball but that was thwarted by his wife.
“He became a high school teacher and coach,” daughter Amy recalled. “But mom didn’t like hearing people in the stands criticizing his coaching, so when he received a job in Indy as a guidance director at Southport High School he decided to hang-up coaching.”
He would serve Perry Township Schools as a guidance counselor for nearly 30 years.
While at Baxter Y, he coached Southport varsity and junior-varsity teams for 12 years, mostly during the summer. Metheny won 90 percent of games that he coached in his first four years with assistant coach Chuck Mallender and wound up with a 12-year winning percentage well over 80 percent in nearly 500 games.
He also coached teams in White River Games, Peace Games, Lutheran League, Catholic League, Municipal Gardens, Garfield Park, Fletcher Place and Riverside leagues.
Many girls sought him out to play for him. Metheny thus provided opportunities to scores of girls and coached more than three dozen players who earned college scholarships with 11 of them, including daughter Amy in 2008, as Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame inductees. He also coached 11 Silver Anniversary players, numerous Indiana All-Stars, including Southport’s Linda Mallender, and 32 basketball scholarship players when college coaches didn’t really seek out players.
His 12-year success in various summer leagues with Southport players transferred to the Cardinals with great accomplishments. During that same span, the high school girls team that was coached by Marilyn Ramsey won the county tourney, five sectionals, three regionals, one semi-state, and a coveted state championship.
In her waning weeks of battling Stage 4 cancer, Ramsey dictated a letter of support in Metheny’s nomination for the Silver Medal award that also mentioned Chuck Mallender as his four-year assistant.
“I was so fortunate to have two knowledgeable and committed parents who ran the off-season program. The new season always began with players fit, skill improved, and with more game knowledge exhibited. Several of my coaching contemporaries spoke with envy of the stability of my off season opportunities.”
Metheny also was the first to integrate the Baxter Y league when he brought in Washington High School standout Cheryl Cook, who later would become Miss Indiana Basketball and praised him for being a great influence. She also played for the University of Cincinnati.
“He was a father figure to me,” Cook stated with admiration. “He would pick me up in my old neighborhood Haughville and allowed me to venture outside of my neighborhood and gave me the opportunity to play with such a great bunch of girls who became my family. I will be forever grateful to him because he never treated me any different and never saw color.”
To this day, Amy Metheny gives high praise to her father whom she considers “a ‘girl’s dad’ long before Kobe.” And she recalls that he did it without ever raising his voice.
“He taught girls the game of basketball and gave them opportunities that only the boys had previously known,” she added in her letter of recommendation for the Silver Award. “What he did for girl’s basketball in central Indiana during those 12 years is unprecedented.”
Ironically, he only coached one high school varsity game. In the 1974-1975 season, he coached Southport’s boys team to a regular season win against a favored Decatur Central team when the Cardinals’ head coach was ill and could not coach.
After serving his country in the U.S. Army, Harold Metheny came to Southport and served his family, his community, his young athletes, and his high school.