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Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014

A look at the career of a coaching lifer

Posted Wednesday, December 21, 2011, at 10:18 AM

(Photo)
John Gettinger is shown coaching his current Carlisle eighth boys grade team earlier this season. Gettinger has been coaching junior high basketball for 29 seasons, 25 at Carlisle. (By B.J. Hargis/Greene County Daily World).
CARLISLE -- I've always said the most interesting part of my job is the people I get a chance to rub shoulders with from season to season.

Whether it is players, parents, coaches, athletic directors, secretaries, teachers, administrators, other school workers, colleagues and co-workers, they have made all of these years in this crazy business a very interesting ride. Maybe something similar to a roller coaster at an amusement park with all its ups and downs twists and turns, ha ha.

But one of the most unusual characters I have ever met is John Gettinger. Fans and parents in Greene County probably have seen or heard John on sidelines throughout the years when their boys or girls basketball teams faced Carlisle.

In this day and age where people will help out coaching on the elementary or junior high level as long as their kids are involved, John has taken a different path.

'The G-Man,' as I as have always called John since I met him while I was sports editor at the Sullivan Daily Times, is in his 29th season of coaching basketball, the past 25 at Carlisle.

Coaching that long in one place makes him unique, but I will get to the really interesting part of John's career in a minute.

After graduating from Indiana State University with a Bachelor's Degree, John started his coaching and teaching career at Mecca.

It was during his four-year stay at the Parke County school where his career veered on the course that few have traveled.

"Things were different then," said Gettinger. "When I got my first job, one of the first questions they asked was would I be willing to coach.

"If you said no, you weren't going to get that job."

Gettinger coached the seventh and eighth grade girls basketball teams all four years he was there, winning three county championships.

"Most people coach just one team, but I have always coached at least two," he said.

But that wasn't the half of it for the 1978 Sullivan High School graduate.

During half of his tenure north of Terre Haute, Gettinger ended up coaching the fifth and sixth grade boys as well as the seventh and eighth grade boys teams.

I remember a story about someone in Indiana that coached a varsity high school boys and girls team in the same season, but to coach six teams in a season is beyond comprehension, maybe border insanity.

"I was single then and had nothing better to do," said Gettinger. "And it meant some extra money too."

It had been decades since Mecca had won just one junior high girls county championship but Gettinger led them to three titles before coming home to his junior high alma mater in 1987-88.

"I did not coach seventh and eighth grade boys my first year at Carlisle," he said. "That means this is my 28th year of coaching both junior high boys teams.

"Back then, I was coaching girls from fifth grade to eighth grade. If I am not mistaken, I coached all four girls teams and the two junior high boys teams for 15 years at both schools combined."

Despite passing the half-century mark and some gray hairs to show it, Gettinger still remembers one six-year stretch.

"I coached 82 games a year for six seasons," said Gettinger, who even sounded amazed when he recited those numbers. "That was the most that I ever done."

If my math skills serve me well, that is 492 games. That is a career for most, but just a fraction of what Gettinger has coached.

"It's not really something I set out to do," said Gettinger. "I knew early on that I wanted to be a coach, but I never thought about coaching that many games or this many years.

"I just did it because I enjoyed it. Don't get me wrong, I like to win as much or more as the next guy. But it is fun to work with a group of people, set goals and work hard to achieve them."

Gettinger said he had the pleasure of coaching both Daria Weitekamp and Jill Hiatt, Sullivan High School's top two girls career scoring leaders. That duo combined to score over 2,800 points.

The G-Man, who was a wrestler at Sullivan after he was squeezed out of playing basketball because of a log jam at point guard, also mentioned Holly Miller, Angela Mackey and Nikki Ridge as some of the standout ladies he had the pleasure of coaching.

Ridge also scored over 1,000 points in her career, meaning that Gettinger coached three of the eight girls to achieve that feat at SHS.

"We had a couple of groups come through here that went undefeated from fifth to eighth grade," he said. "We had two more teams that lost just one game in four years.

"When I applied for the high school girls coaching job the first time, I figured it up and my girls teams at Carlisle had won 86 percent of their games. You don't win that many games because of coaching. You have to have the talent and I have been fortunate to have a lot of good players throughout the years."

He said he coached girls for 11 seasons at Carlisle before he concentrated on coaching just the junior high boys.

The Dream Team, as he describes a group of players that finished at Carlisle in 1997, compiled a 60-1 record during their four years there.

"There were Rance Fosdick, Scott and Jared Ridge to mention a few," he said. "We lost to North Knox as seventh graders the year they went undefeated and then we came back and beat them as eighth graders to go undefeated ourselves," he said. "We beat them three out of those four years. That was the best team I've ever had.

"I also coached Todd Harris, who I believe went over 1,000 career points at Sullivan. Jason Kaiser was a very good player and David Bedwell just graduated last year. Jay Hobbs, the Thompson brothers and Travis Page were just a handful of many players I was luck to coach."

That group went on to play at Sullivan, helping the Golden Arrows win four sectionals and three regionals during their high school careers playing for coach Jeff Moore. Sullivan compiled an 80-20 record during those four seasons (1998-2001).

"I think that group was part of the best four-year record ever at Sullivan," said Gettinger. "Those guys were very talented and there is no other advantage like having talent.

"It has been very rewarding to see players go on and succeed on the court and more importantly off the court after they get out of school."

I recently had the chanced to watch Gettinger coach. I went to a game because my best friend's son now plays for John.

Gettinger, who describes his coaching style as fiery, loud, intense and not afraid to get on his players, said he has slowed down some. But from what I could witness, the G-Man still roams the sideline searching for perfection in an imperfect game and is not afraid to vocally disclose his displeasure with poor defense and not blocking out.

The late great coach and man John Wooden said his favorite line when displeased with his players was, 'Goodness, gracious sakes alive.' They said that was my profanity, he added.

For coach Gettinger, his words of frustration during games and practice include 'Dag nab it and God bless it.'

"It has to be quick, but short so it rolls off your tongue," said a laughing Gettinger. "I had to come up with that so I wouldn't cuss."

Gettinger, who teaches social studies and physical education, has been married to his wife Jackie since 1998.

They have four children Wyatt, age 13; Nolan, 10; Josie, 9; and Eli, 7.

"There is no doubt that I have slowed down some because of my family," he said. "I could not do this without all their love and support.

"This has been the first year that I have ever coached one of my own kids. Wyatt is in the seventh grade."

Gettinger said he loves spending time with kids.

"Sometimes you can be with kids six or seven hours a day class, then practice or games," he said. "Sometimes it can be 10-12 hours a day, which to me makes it fun.

"You get the chance to develop relationships with the kids and a chance to develop relationships with people. I probably will coach until Eli gets through junior high. To be honest, I am coaching lifer. I will coach until I retire from teaching."

Oh by the way, Gettinger will be starting his 25th year this spring as junior high boys and girls track coach for the Southwest School Corporation (a combined team of Sullivan and Carlisle).

"I've always tried to win and have fun doing it," he said. "I thought for a while I might be a high school coach and applied twice for the girls job, but it was the best thing for me that I did not get it.

"I really enjoy coaching at the junior high level. There is no stress about having to win and worry about losing your job. ...I used to kid the principal here about signing a $100,000 contract to coach. If you add it all up, I probably will get there before I retire."

B.J. Hargis is the sports editor at the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached at (812) 847-4487, ext 12 or at hargisbj@gmail.com.


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