Skiles to enter Indiana hoops hall
Already a legend in his home state, Bucks coach receives prestigious honor

by Truman Reed / special to

Scott Skiles and the Plymouth High School Pilgrims became the second-smallest school ever to win the single-class Indiana state boys basketball championship. Skiles was their starting point guard ... and their hero. (Getty)
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December 16, 2008

You've probably seen the motto on a T-shirt:

"Basketball is life. The rest is just details."

In Indiana, folks wear it on their sleeves. And it's etched into their hearts and minds, too.

One state to the north, Scott Skiles became an All-American at Michigan State University and left the storied program as its all-time leading scorer. They retired his No. 4 jersey there years later.

Skiles became a first-round National Basketball Association draft choice. He played in the league for 10 years, collecting 6,652 points and 3,881 assists in 600 career games. Almost 18 years ago, he dished out 30 assists in a single game to establish an NBA record that still stands today.

Three seasons after Skiles' playing days ended, he became an NBA head coach. He has since turned two struggling NBA franchises into winners and is working on a third right here in Milwaukee.

No matter how many great things Skiles achieves in his career, though, to many residents of his home state, they will rate as trivia -- details -- in comparison to what he accomplished there way back in March of 1982.

That was the year in which the Plymouth High School Pilgrims became the second-smallest school ever to win the single-class Indiana state boys basketball championship. Scott Skiles was their starting point guard ... and their hero.

"If I quit the game of basketball tomorrow, there would still be a lot of people there who never knew I coached in the NBA," Skiles said. "They'd still be talking about Plymouth and us winning the state championship."

Soon, more people will know the details, too.

Skiles, along with fellow coaches Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs and Steve Alford of the University of New Mexico, were selected earlier this month for induction into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. A banquet honoring the 2009 induction class will be held Wednesday, March 25, in Indianapolis.

Popovich played at Merrillville High School and at the Air Force Academy. Alford starred at New Castle High School and became an All-American at Indiana University, where he led the Hoosiers to the 1987 NCAA championship.

The other inductees from IU championship teams are Wayne Radford of Indianapolis Arlington, who played on the Hoosiers' unbeaten 1976 team, and Steve Bouchie of Washington and Ted Kitchel of Cass, members of Indiana's 1981 NCAA title team.

The remaining members of the induction class are Denny Bishop (South Bend Central), Phil Cox, (Connersville), Fred Fleetwood (Southport), Dick Hickox (Fort Wayne North), Bill James (Scottsburg), Charles Jenkins (Providence), Bob Sakel (Jasper), Vaughn Wedeking (Evansville Harrison) and the undefeated 1969 Indianapolis Washington team, which was led by George McGinnis and Steve Downing.

Skiles would have ranked as a Hoosier State hero even if he hadn't played a minute of basketball or coached a game after high school.

He led the state in scoring as a junior at 27.9 points per game in 1980-81, then came up with an encore as a senior, repeating the feat with an average of 30.2 points per outing.

He saved some of his very best moments for last. He scored a game-high 30 points in Plymouth's 62-59 state semifinal victory over Indianapolis Cathedral, then poured in 25 of his game-high 39 points during the fourth quarter and two overtimes as the Pilgrims outlasted Gary Roosevelt, 75-74, in the title game -- all in a single day.

Skiles was named to the prestigious Indiana All-Star Team and was runner-up to future University of Kentucky point guard Roger Harden for the Mr. Basketball Award.

The Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame is located in New Castle, Ind., just up the street from the country's largest high school gym, where Steve Alford played. Once Skiles is enshrined there, visitors will find his plaque alongside those of several others who have ties or connections to the Milwaukee Bucks.

They include:

Jon McGlocklin -- "The Original Buck," now in his 33rd season as the team's television analyst, has been associated with the Milwaukee franchise since its inception in 1968. He averaged 19.6 points per game during the team's expansion season, became its first NBA All-Star, and went on to play 595 games and score 7,505 points over eight seasons in a Bucks uniform. His uniform No. 14 was retired by the Bucks in 1976. During his years at Franklin (Ind.) High School, he won a most valuable player award, was scoring champion of the South Central Conference and was named all-state as a senior. He won three letters at Indiana University, where he captained the 1965 Hoosiers and led the team in scoring at 18 points per game and won the school's coveted Balfour Award. He played two seasons with the Cincinnati Royals and one with the San Diego Rockets before coming to Milwaukee in the 1968 Expansion Draft.

Oscar Robertson -- A member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Robertson was voted one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players on the league's 50th anniversary. Acquired by the Bucks in a 1970 trade, he and McGlocklin were the starting guards on the Bucks' 1971 NBA championship team. Robertson spent four of his 14 NBA seasons in Milwaukee and was an all-NBA selection in 11 of those years. His jersey No. 1 was retired by the Bucks in 1974. He led Indianapolis' Crispus Attucks High School to consecutive Indiana state championships in 1955 and '56, and the '56 team was the first to win the Indiana crown with undefeated record. A two-time all-state selection, he was named Indiana's Mr. Basketball as a senior and was the MVP of the Indiana-Kentucky All-Star game. He became a three-time All-American at the University of Cincinnati .and led the nation in scoring in three straight years, setting an NCAA record with 2,973 career points. He was a gold medal winner on the United States' 1959 Pan American Games team and a co-captain of the country's 1960 Olympic gold medalist team.

Delmar Harris -- Better known in Milwaukee circles as "Del," he was the Bucks' head coach from 1987 through '91, compiling a record of 191-154 after serving as an assistant with Milwaukee in 1986-87. He also coached the Houston Rockets from 1976 to 1980 and the Los Angeles Lakers from 1994-99, coached professionally in Puerto Rico and Spain, and is now an assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls. He has 556 wins as an NBA head coach, and was the 1995 NBA Coach of the Year. He has also been an NBA assistant with Houston and Dallas. Harris had a wide-ranging impact on basketball in Indiana. He was an all-conference player at Plainfield High School and a three-time all-conference performer at Milligan College in Tennessee, where he became the all-time leading scorer and an honorable mention Little America choice. He set free-throw shooting records at both his high school and college. He coached Indiana high school ball at Roachdale, Dale and Spencer before moving on to Indiana's Earlham College, where he guided the Quakers to 19 tournament or conference championships and the NAIA National Finals. He is the only NBA coach who coached an IHSAA sectional champion. This is his 50th year in coaching.

Kent Benson -- The Bucks made the Indiana University All-American the first overall selection in the 1977 NBA Draft, and he played three of his NBA seasons with the team. He was a sophomore center when his New Castle High School team reached Indiana's final four in 1971 and collected 1,496 points and 1,585 rebounds in three years with the Trojans. At IU, he started as a freshman and capped that year by winning the Outstanding Player Award when Big Ten co-champion IU won the Conference Commissioners' Association Tournament in St. Louis. Over the next two years, the Hoosiers dominated the country, climaxing a 63-1 run by winning the 1976 NCAA championship in Philadelphia. Benson scored 25 points in the final game victory over Michigan and was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player. A consensus All-American pick that year and the next, when he won the Big Ten's Most Valuable Player Award. He left IU as the program's second all-time scorer with 1,740 career points.

Frank Hamblen -- Now a member of Phil Jackson's coaching staff with the Los Angeles Lakers, Hamblen posted a 23-42 record as interim coach of the Bucks in 1991-92 and was a Bucks assistant from 1987-96. Hamblen, inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007, starred at Terre Haute Garfield High School from 1963-65 before going on to play at Syracuse University. As a sophomore in 1963, he helped an upstart Garfield team reach the Indiana state tourney's final four. When Garfield closed its doors to consolidation, Hamblen ranked as the third-leading scorer in school history behind Terry Dischinger and Clyde Lovellette, who both went on to become All-Americans, Olympic gold medalists and NBA players. Hamblen's prep accomplishments earned him a spot on the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame's Silver Anniversary Team in 1990. Now in his 40th season of coaching professional basketball, he is the longest-tenured NBA assistant in the league, having worked for the Kansas City and Sacramento Kings, the San Diego and Houston Rockets and the Chicago Bulls in addition to the Bucks and Lakers.

Jerry Sichting -- Currently an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Sichting played one game for the Bucks during the 1989-90 season, scoring a total of three points. He was a four-year starter at Martinsville High School (the alma mater of the legendary John Wooden), where he played for fellow Hall inductee Sam Alford, the father of 2009 honoree Steve Alford. He represented Martinsville on the Indiana All-Star Team and went on to play four seasons at Purdue University, earning all-Big Ten Conference honors as a senior. He played 10 seasons in the NBA and was a member of the Boston Celtics' NBA championship team in 1986.

Ray Crowe -- He coached Oscar Robertson's Crispus Attucks High School team to consecutive Indiana state championships in 1955 and '56. Crowe was a four-year letterwinner and twice the leading scorer and captain of Whiteland High School's team. He also won four letters at Indiana Central College, where he was twice the leading scorer and captain of the basketball team. He coached seven years at Crispus Attucks, helping create a high school basketball legend. After coaching the first Indianapolis school to win a state title in 1955, his 1956 Attucks squad became Indiana's first undefeated state champion. The team was the state runner-up in 1957 and a state finalist in '51. Crowe was Attucks' athletic director for 11 years, then served 4 1/2 terms in the Indiana House of Representatives. He became assistant director of the Indiana Department of Public Instruction and later the director of the Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation.

Branch McCracken -- Jon McGlocklin's coach at Indiana University piloted the Hooisers to three Big 10 Conference titles, one co-championship and eight runner-up finishes. Under his leadership, IU won NCAA titles in 1940 and 1953. During his playing career, he established a Big 10 scoring record at IU and was an all-Big 10 selection. He played professionally in Indianapolis; Fort Wayne; Dayton, Ohio; and Oshkosh, Wis. As a student at Monrovia High School, he twice led a school with only 32 male students to the championship of the Tri-State Tourney, a 74-team event held in Cincinnatii. He was MVP of that tourney in 1925 and '26. He coached eight seasons at Ball State University before succeeding the legendary Everett Dean at IU.

Ron Heflin -- Glenn Robinson's high school coach, Heflin guided Gary Roosevelt to nine sectional titles, three semi-state crowns and the 1991 Indiana state championship. His title team featured National Player of the Year Robinson, who went on to become college player of the year at Purdue University in 1994, then spent his first eight NBA seasons with the Bucks, becoming the franchise's second all-time scorer. Heflin was a three-year letterwinner at Gary Roosevelt and an All-City and All-Area selection. He was a member of Tennessee State's 1959 NAIA championship team and coached 21 years at his alma mater before retiring in 1997. He compiled a record of 345-116 for a .750 winning percentage.

Gene Keady -- Glenn Robinson's college coach, he became Purdue University's all-time winningest coach in 1997. A Kansas native, Keady became a Junior College All-American quarterback at Garden City (Kan.) before lettering in football for three seasons at Kansas State University. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, but his playing days were ended by an injury. He began his basketball coaching career at Beloit (Kan.) High School in 1959 and went on to post a 142-47 record at the prep level. He moved on to Hutchinson (Kan.) Junior College, where he was named national junior college coach of the year three times. Keady spent four seasons as an assistant to Eddie Sutton at the University of Arkansas, helping future Bucks great Sidney Moncrief and the Razorbacks go 94-24. Keady was head coach at Western Kentucky University from 1978 through 1980, guiding the Hilltoppers to a 38-19 record. He took over the head-coaching job at Purdue in 1980, and during the next 25 years, he became the second-winningest coach in Big 10 Conference history, overseeing 265 victories and posting an overall record of 512-270. He earned six national coach-of-the-year awards and was a member of the 2000 Olympic Games coaching staff in Sydney, Australia, helping Team USA capture the gold medal. Keady served as an assistant coach with the NBA's Toronto Raptors in 2005 and '06, and is now a basketball analyst with the Big 10 Network.

Jack Edison -- Scott Skiles' coach at Plymouth High School, the Indiana native won 10 varsity letters, including four in basketball, at Green Township High School. A three-year starter in basketball, he was his team MVP in in 1961, '62 and '63. He broke Don Schlundt's record for points in a St. Joseph County Tourney game with 37 and totaled 1,132 career points. He attended Manchester College for one year before moving on to Bethel College, where he won nine letters -- three in basketball. He was basketball MVP as a junior and set assist records for a single game, a season and a career. Edison began teaching at Plymouth in 1967 and coached basketball at the freshman and junior varsity levels from 1970 through '73 before taking the varsity job, which he held through 2007, when the Pilgrims won their second state title. His Plymouth teams won 545 games over his 34 years at the helm. He coached the Indiana All-Stars in 1982.