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The second time was the right time for MaeschPosted Friday, May 2, 2008, at 10:13 PM
It was six years ago when then Northview High School assistant boys basketball coach Ernie Maesch thought he would have a shot to be the varsity coach at his alma mater.
Maesch came back to Northview in 2000 and was told the varsity job would be his the next time it became available.
But after John Crooks stepped down as varsity coach at NHS after the 2002 season, the job was given to Mitch Lancaster.
"They told me the job would be mine," said Maesch, who compiled a 78-40 record at Shakamak. "But it didn't work out that way.
"Some strange things happen."
Maesch, who said he always wanted to be a varsity high school boys basketball coach, then applied for the Shakamak job in 2002-03, but they had already hired Josh Johnson. Wanting to stay in coaching, he spent one season working for Jim Shaw at Rose-Hulman.
"I had a good chance to prepare under three college coaches, but there are too many variables in the college game," said Maesch, who finished up his Bachelor of Science Degree at Indiana State University in 1995.
Johnson ended up staying just one season at Shakamak before departing. This opened the door for Maesch, whose Laker teams won 66 percent of their games between 2003-04 and 2007-08 as well as the first Greene County Invitational championship in 26 years, two sectional titles, one regional championship, two 19-win seasons and two Tri-River Conference titles.
Maesch, whose Laker team lost to eventual state champion Hauser 53-41 at the 2006 Class A Southport Semistate, made the tough decision to leave SHS, with four returning sophomores from this year's sectional title team.
In the end, the 1990 Northview High School graduate could not turn down the allure of trying to rebuild the boys basketball program at his alma mater. He was approved as the new leader of the Knights on Thursday night.
Ironically, Lancaster had to step down because of health problems, opening the door for Maesch's return as he proved you can go home.
"It's home," said Maesch. "They asked me in the interview why I would want to leave the situation I was in at Shakamak, when I had a team that I thought could play for the ultimate prize.
"I just felt like this was a great opportunity to build something at Northview."
The Knights are four years removed from three straight seasons where they won 21 games, including a Class 4A sectional championship in 2004. Northview has won no fewer than 13 games in each of the past four seasons, but have had their season ended by Terre Haute North (twice), Plainfield and Terre Haute South at the sectional.
"I have been told that it will be a rebuilding process," Maesch said of the current situation at NHS. "They have had a couple of lean years.
"What I want to do is get the feeder program going strong again."
Northview has an enrollment of 1,194 while Shakamak has 256 students, according to the Indiana High School Athletic Association.
"There are so many kids to choose from," said Maesch, who played college basketball for four seasons at ISU. "Even with having to share athletes with football and other sports, there will always be kids to work with.
"And there is always gym space available."
He added the only problem with the numbers is when they have to reduce approximately 170 boys to 12 to 15.
"That is an area of we need to focus on," he said. "We need to find a way to keep more kids, but more importantly keep the right kids."
Maesch said the recent success of the football and baseball teams should bode well for the basketball program.
"We want to get the best athletes on the court," Maesch said. "With what we have to go up against, you have to have those kids playing basketball.
"I don't mind sharing athletes because your really good athletes usually play more than one sport. We hope to sell them on the basketball program."
Maesch said he realizes that the Knights play in a very competitive sectional, which also includes Mooresville and Martinsville.
They also compete in the Western Indiana Conference.
"I grew up playing those teams," said Maesch. "The thing I will miss is the great tradition and rivalries the teams have in Greene County.
"But I grew up playing North and South and those other teams in our conference. I know the South coach very well. It is going to be fun, but we've got our work cut out for us to get to the level where we can compete with those teams. We have a great chance to win a sectional in the next couple of years."
The current postseason alignment will not change until after the 2010-11 season. Maesch believes the Knights could move down in class for the state tournament.
"The last time they did the enrollment numbers, Northview was 20 kids away from being in Class 3A," he said. "Right now we have lost 50 kids since that count.
"I believe that would put Northview down 10 or 12 spots into 3A. Even if it doesn't happen, it is a super job. We are preparing to play 4A teams in the tournament. If we move down the next time, it would make it even a greater job than it is."
Maesch said he is looking forward to his new challenge, but has a boat load of memories and mixed emotions about leaving Shakamak.
"I had five great years at Shakamak," said Maesch. "The support from the community and the school were tremendous. This has been five of the most special years I have spent as a teacher and coach.
"We had some great kids and I hope that some day some of them choose to help me coach. The high point was when we were 12 points away from going to the state finals. Jared Rehmel just took that team over and we had a great ride to the semistate. It was so much fun."
B.J. Hargis is sports editor at the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached at (812) 847-4487, ext. 12 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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