Jim Buller would have you believe his record for Elkhart County boys basketball wins is merely a matter of simple longevity.
The problem is, longevity's not simple. Especially in Indiana high school basketball.
Otherwise, everybody would possess it, and Buller wouldn't necessarily possess this record, the one he set Thursday night with his 365th victory, in a home game against Howe.
Coaches either get restless and leave for something potentially better, leave by way of getting fired in a game in a state that can be unforgiving of anything resembling underachievement, or leave by way of getting plain burned out.
Longevity is not simple at all. Rather, it's a feat worthy of a tribute.
Never mind what Buller contends.
First off, though, if we can get personal, it seemed for a time that the centerpiece of my own working relationship with Jim Buller might become the class basketball debate.
Buller and I have always been precisely 180 degrees apart on that one.
Which would be no big deal on most topics. If we were 180 degrees apart on Italian food vs. Chinese food, so what? We're just going to eat what we prefer. Country vs. rock? Listen to what we prefer. Or as kids, Ginger vs. Mary Ann? Hang posters of ... well, you get the idea.
But with class basketball, unlike the others, we couldn't both have our way. And for neither of us, has it ever been, or will it ever be, a case of merely slightly preferring a particular way. We're both dug in.
The level of fervency has been so intense on both ends that it could've blown up a working relationship.
It never did, and for that, I thank Jim Buller.
In fact, these days, even though it's still a real topic for both of us, we can also joke about it.
Just last week, Buller mentioned that he was trying to obtain a Bethany speech and debate team T-shirt to present to me. On the front: “I'd like to agree with you.” On the back: “But then we'd both be wrong.”
You're a funny guy, Jim.
And a stand-up guy. A reliable guy. A guy's guy. A longtime caring-student-counselor guy. And a lot-of-other-things guy.
But, anyway, back to the point — how to pay tribute to Buller for his record?
Actually, that's easy, because him setting it presents an opportunity to pay tribute to several things.
It's a tribute to a story like returning to your alma mater and never leaving.
It's a tribute to a school that has stuck with the same man through all kinds of seasons.
It's a tribute to a man who has represented that school in such a way that it hasn't had cause to make a change.
It's a tribute to the disproportionate number of other great coaches in our area who have managed longevity, regardless of the fact they've either chosen to or have had to move around. Dan Gunn and Al Rhodes just passed 500 wins. Steve Austin and Mark Barnhizer are closing on 400.
It's a tribute to Les McCuen, the late Concord coach who began researching and documenting Elkhart County boys basketball history many years ago. Without McCuen, we might not even know who holds these records. Not every county has had a Les McCuen.
It's a tribute to NorthWood girls coach Steve Neff. As Buller has pointed out multiple times, the boys county mark pales next to Neff's mark. Neff has won 616 games, all at NorthWood, and good for second-best in girls statewide history.
It's a tribute to John Longfellow and how long Longfellow's record stood. Longfellow went 364-163 as an Elkhart County boys coach, including four years at Nappanee and 19 at Elkhart High before replacing some guy named John Wooden in 1948 at Indiana State.
And it's a tribute to Buller and his staying power. Buller — who has added four sectionals titles and two regional crowns over the last 15 years — now stands at 365-356 in his 34th season at Bethany Christian, a tiny school that has played a blend of similar-sized schools and plenty-bigger schools.
So, congratulations, Jim Buller, on inspiring attention to some other things and on your record.
I'd like to agree with you that it's merely a matter of simple longevity. But then we'd both be wrong.
Anthony Anderson is The Elkhart Truth's assistant sports editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anthony's Twine 12
1. SB Adams (1) 4-0
2. Concord (2) 2-0
3. Plymouth (3) 5-0
4. SB Washington (4) 2-1
5. NorthWood (8) 3-0
6. Penn (7) 2-1
7. Marian (5) 2-2
8. Goshen (6) 3-1
9. LaVille (10) 3-0
10. Mishawaka (—) 2-0
11. Memorial (12) 3-0
12. SB Riley (—) 4-1
Last week's ranking in parentheses. Teams chosen from among the 38 making up the NLC, NIC, NSC, NECC and independents Bethany and Elkhart Christian. Dropped out: Westview (9), Triton (11).
IHSAA Area Records
School W-L Off. Def.
Memorial 3-0 63.0 53.7
NorthWood 3-0 64.7 51.0
Concord 2-0 78.0 49.5
Westview 4-1 72.2 51.8
Elkhart Christian 3-1 69.0 56.8
Goshen 3-1 62.5 48.3
Penn 2-1 66.0 58.7
Northridge 3-2 58.2 55.6
Wawasee 3-2 61.2 54.6
Fairfield 2-2 54.5 57.8
Jimtown 2-2 44.0 38.0
Marian 2-2 70.8 67.3
Central 2-3 54.2 54.6
Bethany Christian 1-4 42.6 57.8
Player, School G Pts Avg
Demetrius Jackson, Marian 3 99 33.0
Markese McGuire, Memorial 3 77 25.7
Franko House, Concord 2 43 21.5
Jonathan Wilkinson, NorthWood 3 62 20.7
Austin Torres, Penn 3 58 19.3
Kyle Miller, Westview 5 91 18.2
Nate Ritchie, Northridge 5 89 17.8
Sam Stegelmann, Goshen 4 70 17.5
Zach Zurcher, NorthWood 3 51 17.0
Ryndan Aaron, Wawasee 5 82 16.4
Chandler Aspy, Westview 5 79 15.8
Cory Waycaster, ECA 4 63 15.8
Devin Cannady, Marian 3 44 14.7
Conner Sowders, Penn 3 42 14.0
Sam Ahonen, Northridge 5 69 13.8
Ryan Kupferschmid, ECA 4 54 13.5
Filip Serwatka, Concord 2 26 13.0
Sol Brenneman, Bethany 5 64 12.8
James Hershberger, Memorial 3 38 12.7
Brad Lantz, Fairfield 4 50 12.5
Kenny Bearss, ECA 4 49 12.3
Terell Street, Central 4 48 12.0
Chase Hoeflinger, Jimtown 4 48 12.0
Marcus Rodes, Fairfield 4 46 11.5
Jesse Good, Goshen 4 46 11.5
Caleb Morris, Bethany 5 57 11.4
Mason Brown, Jimtown 4 45 11.3
Alex Clark, Wawasee 5 56 11.2
Blake Brouwer, Central 5 55 11.0
Garrett Scott, Fairfield 4 43 10.8
Jordyn Bontrager, Westview 5 52 10.4
Tanner Watson, ECA 4 41 10.3
Michael Hobbs, Jimtown 4 40 10.0
Brady Bechtel, Goshen 4 38 9.5
DuWhan Alford, Concord 2 19 9.5
Jake Thompson, Wawasee 2 19 9.5
Note: One game missing from individual scoring for Marian.
This Week's Games
Ÿ SB St. Joseph (0-2) vs. Memorial at North Side Gym
Ÿ NorthWood at Jimtown, JV moved up to 6 p.m.
Ÿ Triton (2-3) at Bethany Christian
Ÿ Memorial at Concord
Ÿ Jimtown at Culver (4-1 before Winamac Tuesday)
Ÿ Goshen at Northridge
Ÿ NorthWood at Plymouth (5-0)
Ÿ Hamilton (3-3 before Central Noble Tuesday) at Fairfield
Ÿ Warsaw (2-3) at Wawasee
Ÿ Penn at SB Clay (3-2 before Niles, Mich., Tuesday)
Ÿ Angola (2-2) at Westview
Ÿ Marian at SB Washington (2-1 before LaVille Tuesday)
Ÿ Goshen at Fairfield
Ÿ Munster (4-0) at Penn
Ÿ Marian vs. Proviso East, Ill. (5-2 before Addison Trail Friday) at Indianapolis Tech, approximately 2:45 p.m. (part of Indy Legacy Showcase)
Ÿ Bethany Christian Holiday Tournament (Elkhart Christian vs. Lakeland Christian, 10 a.m.; SB Trinity vs. Bethany, approximately 11:30 a.m.; consolation, 4 p.m.; championship, approximately 7:30 p.m. Note — A girls tourney will also be occurring on campus, with its championship at 6 p.m.)