When the area boys basketball season tips in earnest Tuesday, three Elkhart County teams will be headed by new coaches.
The differences among the men border on boundless. None of them is close to the other two in age. They’ve followed different coaching paths to this point. One’s from northern Indiana, one’s from southern Indiana and one’s from Michigan.
Yet, there are also plenty of connections among them.
What Elkhart Central’s Terry Smith, Goshen’s Michael Wohlford and Bethany Christian’s Ryan Gingerich may most have in common for the moment, though, is a case of nerves, to varying degrees.
Hey, this is Indiana high school boys basketball after all.
“I think the only time I’ve ever been nervous in coaching is when I’m not prepared for a game,” said Smith, whose Blue Blazers open at Northridge, “but I’ve always tried to be very prepared. That said, I’m always nervous for a first game, because that’s when you know the least about the other team. ... And I will say it’s pretty special to finally be coaching in Indiana.”
At least Smith, 55, can fall back on the fact that he’s entering his 33rd year in coaching, the majority of that time as a head coach, albeit all of it in Michigan and Florida.
For Indiana native sons Wohlford, 31, and Gingerich, 41, however, this is their first-ever games as varsity head coaches.
“There’s a little bit of anxiousness,” said Wohlford, whose RedHawks host Marian, “but I’m more excited than anxious. I’m excited to moved past the administrative duties and get into the coaching. I’ve heard from multiple coaches, ‘Welcome to the land of a thousand emails.’ As an assistant, you could just coach. That’ll be a nice feeling, to concentrate on basketball.”
“I think I’m going to be nervous,” conceded Gingerich, whose Bruins head to Westview, “but if you’re not nervous, what’s the point? I think it’s a good nervous. I feel very prepared from being with Randy DeShone is one of those connections among a couple of these new coaches. It was him leaving Central that opened the position that became Smith’s.
Gingerich worked mostly under DeShone during his 15 years as an area assistant, mostly at Jimtown, then the last two seasons with the Blazers.
He’s had to wait out his opportunity to be a head coach for a lot longer than Smith or Wohlford.
“Everything I went through, it’s been hard at times, but several years ago, I also would not have been as ready,” Gingerich reasoned. “I feel ready.”
Ironically enough after stops at three other schools, Gingerich landed his first head coaching job right back of the edge of his hometown. The former Goshen High lefty sharpshooter played for Mike Sorrell at GHS.
And now, continuing with connections among these coaches, Wohlford is heading up that program that is just one coach removed from Sorrell in Brian Bechtel.
Unlike Gingerich, Wohlford didn’t have to switch schools to become a head coach. The former Columbus East standout was Bechtel’s assistant the last eight years at the lone place he’s moved to since graduating from college.
Smith, meanwhile, has made more moves than he can count without some deep thought. Around a dozen, spanning high school, college and pro gigs.
Nevertheless, he and Wohlford have at least one sort of intimate connection off the beaten path.
Wohlford’s younger brother, Mark, and Smith’s nephew, Ryne, played together at Purdue. Each was later a groomsman in the other’s wedding.
“But I don’t really know Terry Smith,” said Michael Wohlford. “I’m looking forward to meeting him.”
If not sooner, that could come when Central plays in the Goshen Holiday Tourney on Dec. 22-23.
In the meantime, there’s the business of these openers.
“I don’t feel comfortable, because I can’t scout them,” Smith said of Northridge. “I’ve watched every film (of Central’s games) from last year, but personnel changes, style changes.”
“I think the thing I’m least nervous about is the basketball side of it,” Wohlford said. “I’ve been developing my basketball philosophy for a long time, but once the ball goes up, we’ll see.”
“It’s different,” Gingerich said of being a head coach. “There’s all the details, making sure the jerseys are washed, all kinds of things. I think it’s why a lot of people don’t want to be head coaches. Some of the best coaches I’ve ever been around were not head coaches, and didn’t want to be.”
Anthony Anderson is The Elkhart Truth’s sports editor. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at @AnthonyAnders11.
(2015-16 records in parentheses)
* Elkhart Central (16-8) at Northridge (8-14), girl/boy DH
* Prairie Heights (13-13) at Concord (6-17)
* Marian (22-5) at Goshen (10-14)
* Fairfield (13-10) at Wawasee (2-21)
* Bethany Christian (4-20) at Westview (13-12)
* Granger Christian (8-15) at Clinton Christian (19-6)
* Mishawaka (13-10) vs. Elkhart Memorial (5-18) at North Side Gym
* Concord at Michigan City (12-11)
* Goshen at Fairfield
* Northridge at Westview
* West Noble (4-19) at Bethany Christian
* Carroll (22-7) at Penn (11-13), 4 p.m. JV start