Bill Patrick will retire from coaching high school basketball one day. He's in no hurry. He's only 75.
Patrick notched his 700th win this season, and once again he's taking Tippecanoe Valley to the regional, brandishing a brand of fundamentally sound, team-first basketball that never goes out of fashion.
“When I went to Tippecanoe Valley, I actually called the board members and told them, 'I'll take the job. I guarantee I'll stay three years, but not any more than five,' ” Patrick said. “We'll get some young guy and train him. Well, it's gone from five to 15 years. Time drifts by. I had no intention of that when I first went there.”
Proving that basketball coaching has no age limit, Patrick is 235-97 in his 15 years at Tippecanoe Valley, including 20-3 this season. The school will play in its fifth regional under Patrick, seeking its second regional title.
Tippecanoe Valley plays Norwell (17-6) at noon Saturday in the Class 3A Blackford Regional. The winner plays the winner of Concordia Lutheran vs. Hamilton Heights for the championship at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Patrick acknowledges players have changed over the course of his career, which included 24 years as the head coach at Whitko. He has adjusted, too, although the same concepts he espoused as a young coach emphasizing teamwork and sacrifice remain true.
“Go back 20 years, kids were raised on farms and they knew what it was to work hard,” Patrick said. “Now the hardest thing they do is two hours of basketball practice. It's hard to run a practice exactly like I did back then. I'm not sure kids would respond to it. So I had to make some changes. Not a lot. We still do basically a lot of things we've always done. But kids don't want to be pushed.”
Patrick talks a little more, decides maybe he's being a bit harsh on today's teens.
“There's still a lot of kids that don't mind working,” Patrick said. “Hopefully, you can find enough of those for a good team. I've got a group of kids that really work hard this year.”
Patrick, who is already in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, won his 700th game against Fairfield on Dec. 21. He joined four other Indiana coaches who have reached the milestone: Jack Butcher (806), Howard Sharp (723), Pat Rady (716) and Bill Stearman (714). Patrick's overall record is 713-277 in 44 years.
Despite his longevity, Patrick still saw something new this season.
Wabash attempted to full-court press and trap for an entire 32 minutes when the teams met Feb. 1 at Tippecanoe Valley.
Tippecanoe Valley won 146-56, a score that made statewide news.
“I'm sure a lot of people thought we ran the score up,” Patrick said. “If we ran the score up, we probably could have scored 200 pressing and trapping.”
Patrick was surprised by the Wabash strategy and by the decision by Wabash to keep using it after Tippecanoe Valley scored 78 first-half points. Wabash took 99 shots, Patrick said, including more than 40 three-pointers.
“I've never been involved in a game like that,” he said. “The only thing we could have done when they trapped us was hand the ball to them and let them score. They sent two or three guys at the ball every time.”
Patrick played his reserves the entire fourth quarter and took leading scorer Nick Kindig out of the game after he tied the school record with 51 points. “I didn't want him to break the record in a game like that,” Patrick said.
Like most people with memories of the now-defunct single-class Indiana high school tournament, Patrick feels the tournament isn't what it used to be.
“It's still a good game, but I think the IHSAA did some damage to it,” Patrick said. “When they went to class basketball, it was a mistake. I really think we need to have one state champ. I'm in the minority, I guess.”
Patrick said he would like to see a postseason tournament that would pit the Class A vs. Class 2A champions and Class 3A vs. Class 4A champions, with the two winners meeting for the overall title. The IHSAA tried a version of that early in the switch to class basketball.
“Everybody can't win in life,” Patrick said.
Patrick has won his share, and he faces what he thinks is the best regional field in the state this weekend. His son, Chad, his assistant coach, will be by his side as usual.
Win or lose, Bill Patrick plans to return next season.
“It's kind of hard when you've done it as long as I have,” Patrick said. “One of these days I've got to walk away from it.”
He's in no hurry. Retirement can wait. Tipoff approaches.