ELKHART — On the eve of their sectional opener, even the players remained in the dark regarding the status of Elkhart Central boys basketball head coach Troy Noble, according to one player's parent.
"It's really frustrating for the players that they don't know," Carlos Harris said Thursday, March 6.
Harris' son, Treyton, is a junior and the Blue Blazers' leading scorer heading into Friday's Class 4A Elkhart Sectional semifinal against Goshen at North Side Gym.
"They either don't know what's going on, or they're being told to say they don't know, and I have no reason to think that's the case," Carlos Harris said of the players.
"I think they're tired of having questions asked of them about it," Harris said. "I know my son's tired. I'm quite certain he's been asked a lot of questions, including by me."
Noble has not coached games nor been at practices, according to Harris, since sometime before the Blazers' second-to-last regular-season game, which was Feb. 25.
Central athletic director Buck Buckley said at that Feb. 25 game that Noble was out due to "personal issues."
"It's been my understanding he can come back anytime, but I don't know if that's the case," Harris said.
Elkhart Community School officials are not saying if that's the case.
ECS director of personnel and legal services Doug Thorne reiterated Thursday that Noble remains a teacher in the system and is not suspended from those duties, but Thorne said he could offer nothing new on the basketball coaching situation.
Buckley said Thursday that Noble officially remains Central's head coach. Asked if that meant Noble would coach Friday's game, Buckley said he did not know.
Scott Sassaman has been serving as "interim head coach," according to Buckley.
Noble has not returned several messages left on his cell phone over the last week-plus. As of Thursday, his voicemail greeting still included a "Go Blazers" reference.
Harris said he has discussed the coaching situation with Buckley.
"I called and asked him, 'What's the deal?' and he basically said he can't talk about it," Harris said. "I said some of the players are concerned, and he said whoever is coaching them right now is their coach."
Harris, who is youth services director at the Elkhart YMCA, said he's not necessarily suspicious over how the situation is being handled, but that he was just hoping there would be a resolution or some clarity by now.
"I respect the judgment of what they're doing, and I'm going to be a true-hearted Central person for life," said Harris, who is active in youth basketball coaching, "but it's also crunch time. It's tough for players not knowing who will be coaching them."
Though he doesn't fault anybody involved, Harris said he believes the continuity that the Blazers had in place under Noble has been hurt, and that it's been reflected in the last two results against admittedly strong teams, a 72-59 loss to Elkhart Christian (17-4) and a 61-37 loss to LaPorte (14-7).
Overall, Central (5-15) has lost six straight, but the last three with Noble were each two-point decisions, including to South Bend St. Joseph (15-6) and Marian (13-8).
"Whatever happens," Harris said, "whether they retain him or make a change, I'm wishing them good luck."