ELKHART — Mark Barnhizer is a boys basketball coach in title — in fact, he’s the 2011-12 Elkhart Truth Area Coach of the Year — but he remains a player in action.
“He could beat any of us — consistently,” Memorial senior Todd Johnson said last week of Barnhizer’s ability in shooting games such as HORSE. “And he can still play (the actual game of basketball). He gets in there with us in 6 a.m. open gyms and plays.”
“I can still play some, can still score, can still shoot jump shots,” the 55-year-old Barnhizer acknowledged, “and (the players) know I can beat ’em all in HORSE, any day, but I’m not going to beat ’em in a game anymore with my lateral movement.”
It’s not for lack of practice, though.
The Crimson Charger boss still shoots about 300 shots a day, every day, nearly 365 days a year.
Even when he, wife Heidi and their kids went on vacation this past week in Florida, it wasn’t before Barnhizer made sure there would be a nearby gym that he could shoot at each day.
“It’s therapeutic for me,” said Barnhizer, who played collegiately at Purdue and Auburn. “I can’t tell you when I last missed a day. Some will say it’s childish, but it’s what I enjoy. Some guys like to play golf, some people like to drink, I like to shoot. It’s what I enjoy.”
He still enjoys coaching the game, too, and especially enjoyed it during the season just completed, when his Crimson Chargers went 24-2, set a bunch of school standards, won the program’s first regional crown in 23 years and barely missed advancing to the Class 4A state title contest, falling 62-59 to eventual champion Carmel.
For those efforts, Barnhizer was overwhelmingly chosen Coach of the Year in balloting among 13 area coaches and four Truth basketball staffers.
Barnhizer received 13 of the 17 votes, while 2011 winner Rob Yoder of Westview received three of the remaining four votes.
“It feels good that other coaches recognize your team was good,” Barnhizer said, “but I’m no different than I’ve been the past few years. It’s just that when you’ve got good players and they play together, good things happen, so I’m glad the other coaches recognized that our kids did a good job.”
Barnhizer says, if anything, this was one of his easiest seasons, based on a combination of how hard his players worked, how much basketball IQ they possessed and how they steered clear of trouble.
“This team had more freedom than any team I’ve had here,” said Barnhizer, who’s been at Memorial for six years. “Sometimes your best teams are the teams that police themselves and coach themselves on the floor. You can back off, and a lot of years, you can’t do that. This group really took ownership.”
While Barnhizer may discount his own role some in the 2011-12 season, Johnson doesn’t.
“Coach meant a lot to us,” the point guard said. “He knows every aspect of the game, knows all the situations and just makes sure you’re practicing hard. He has a passion, a love for the game, like we do, and it’s great to be able to play for somebody like that.”
Johnson says he appreciated the freedoms that were given.
“Some scenarios at the end of a game, you need a timeout, but he let us play through of a lot of other situations,” Johnson said. “It’s nice when you can make a mistake or two without having to look over to see if you’re coming out. As long as they were aggressive mistakes, you were good.”
While this latest season does stick out, it was also Barnhizer’s fifth straight winning mark with the Chargers overall, the program’s best string in 28 years. He’s 87-49 at Memorial and 368-253 in 28 high school seasons overall.
He has no intentions of stopping anytime soon, and says if he’s still enjoying it then, he’ll want to coach his two basketball-loving sons, Braxton and Brooks, currently in fifth and fourth grade, respectively.
“I’ll quit when it becomes a drag and I don’t want to work at it,” Barnhizer said. “When I dread practices, that’s when it’ll be time to get out. The day I can’t do it right, can’t give it my best, that’s when I’ll get out. But I know I’m a little different from a lot of guys. I think about basketball more than most people. It’s there from the minute I get up ’til around the time I go to bed.”
Truth Coach of the Year
2012 Voting Leaders
(17 Votes Cast)
Mark Barnhizer, Memorial 13
Rob Yoder, Westview 3
2012: Mark Barnhizer (Memorial)
2011: Rob Yoder (Westivew)
2010: Phil Mishler (Wawasee)
2009: Jason Ridge (Northridge)
2008: Rob Yoder (Westview)
2007: Dan Gunn (NorthWood)
2006: Steve Johnson (Memorial)
2005: Ryan Culp (Concord)
2004: Randy DeShone (Jimtown)
2003: Mike Drews (Central) and Ryan Culp (Concord)