ELKHART — As it turns out in the sometimes domino-dominated world of coaching, Dean Foster can thank a couple fellow Elkhart County guys for his latest gig that will take him well outside Elkhart County.
The 66-year-old Foster accepted an offer Tuesday, June 18, to become head boys basketball coach and a physical education/health teacher at Oregon-Davis High School. He’s been approved by the school board there.
O-D is located in the Starke County town of Hamlet.
It’s a little over an hour’s drive from Foster’s home in Granger, but that’s a chip shot compared to the roughly four-hour trips he encountered while coaching for one season each a few years ago at Richmond and Jennings County.
“It’s very exciting to have this chance after applying to 20, 25 places the last couple years, and apparently nobody thinking I was quite good enough to help out in any of those situations,” Foster said.
Foster, an Elkhart native who guided Elkhart Central and Penn to some of the most glorious times in the histories of those two programs, says he feels like his age was a leading factor in being rejected for some of the coaching jobs he’s recently pursued, but not necessarily in all cases.
“There’s no doubt about it,” Foster said of whether as a head coach he still handles players the same way he did when he was in his 40s.
“I’m probably a lot more demanding than some of today’s coaches,” Foster said, “but we kind of lay it all out on the line for the kids, and you’re either in or you’re out, and the kids understand. We’re going to shoot for hard work and sacrifice, and that’ll make them proud of what they accomplish.”
Frankly, O-D, with an IHSAA-listed enrollment of 198 students, hasn’t accomplished much at all since winning a Class 1A state title in 2006-07 and seeing coach Travis Hannah leave after that season for Glenn.
The Bobcats have gone 23-100 in the six succeeding years under three head coaches with no more than five wins in any of those seasons.
Matt Crawford — a 2003 Northridge graduate — coached O-D the last two years with an 8-33 mark, before being hired in mid-May to succeed Marty Gaff — a 1971 Goshen College graduate and ex-Goshen High assistant — as head coach at Kouts.
Gaff retired after his 30th season at that school with a 392-258 record, seven sectional titles and two regional crowns.
Crawford inherits a program that’s gone 57-10 over the last three years and potentially returns three of four double-digit scorers from a 19-3 club.
As for O-D, the Bobcats went 4-16 last winter, but potentially return their top four scorers.
“I actually got to watch them play a little bit in one of those summer tournaments (hosted June 7 by Bethel College),” Foster said, “and whether they had all their players or not I don’t know, but the group I saw didn’t look bad. They had some basketball (upside).”
The well-traveled Foster spent this past season assisting at Mishawaka and the one before that assisting at Central.
As a head coach, Foster is 436-360 in 36 seasons with 10 sectional titles.
In six seasons heading up the Blue Blazers beginning in 1992-93, he went 99-43 with two Northern Indiana Conference titles, three sectional titles, two regional titles and a State Finals appearance in 1995.
That was followed by 10 years at Penn in which Foster went 169-70 with seven NIC titles, five sectional titles, three regional titles and a Class 4A state runner-up finish in 2001.
He started his head coaching career with five seasons at Cincinnati Taft, before spending 13 seasons at Bremen.
Foster served as interim coach at Richmond in 2008-09, then one year at Jennings County in 2009-10 before declining an offer to return there.
Oregon-Davis is not scheduled to play in Elkhart County in 2013-14, but the Bobcats host Elkhart Christian on Jan. 18.