GREATNESS TOOK TIME, PATIENCE

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Written By Ink Free News / Sports on Monday, March 9, 2020

Doug Ogle, seated with longtime assistant coach Hal Gunter during a game in 2017, is stepping away from coaching at Warsaw after 35 years with the boys basketball program. (File photo by Mike Deak)

WARSAW – The end of an era has fallen upon three of the IFN area schools after the weekend’s winter sports proceedings. And all three vacancies will take some mighty shoes to fill each, just as the expectations were put upon them when they took over in the respective programs at their institutions.

LEAVE A COWBOY COOKIE, IF YOU WILL

Doug Ogle was in a good place when he took over the Warsaw boys basketball program in 2003. He was already there. But, much like what happened just a couple years before at Indiana University, simply walking into the role of an icon wouldn’t be easy. And how Mike Davis found out in Bloomington, success wouldn’t simply erase the void of replacing a legend.

Ogle replaced Al Rhodes, who was as beloved as any coach could be. He brought a very proud Warsaw basketball program a state title, he brought them (depending on whom you ask) Rick Fox, he brought them sustained success. Ogle quietly had been as good, if not better, within the JV ranks, losing just 30 games in 17 years, shaping the boys Rhodes would later showcase in the spotlight. When Ogle took over for Rhodes, some couldn’t get over it. For years, if anything went wrong at all in Tiger basketball, it was Ogle’s fault. But the coach kept on trucking, kept on winning.

Some will remember Ogle for his 275 wins. Some will stick with his 141 losses, assuming Rhodes or David Wayne or Aaron Wolfe or anyone else could have done better. Maybe they could have convinced Perky Plumlee to keep his kids around. Or, maybe they were just happy watching Nic Moore, Kyle Mangas and Paul Marandet lead Warsaw back to greatness.

What likely will attach itself to Doug Ogle as he retires after 35 years of coaching, all 35 of those years at Warsaw, is what he stood for. He was and continues to be an outstanding educator in the classroom, to which he has mentored countless basketball players through Honor Roll, Honor Society and scholarship recognition. He was a professional in a world where coaches make headlines for throwing objects and clothing around gymnasiums to create their own personas. Ogle rarely got out of his patented crouch as games unfolded. He spoke clearly, he spoke with purpose, and very, very rarely spoke poorly of another team or person during postgame interviews or in common settings.

Ogle had a way of connecting with people that mattered. Sometimes, it was a plate of his famous Cowboy Cookies before a home game. “Pass them around, make sure the refs get a couple,” was all he would say with a wry smile. He loved his players and, now with his final game in the books after the Elkhart Sectional wrapped up Saturday night, he’ll get to love on Melissa and his three girls a little more.

HOHM COURT ADVANTAGE

Chris Hohm helped change the identity of Lakeland Christian Academy boys basketball. Hohm, shown with Carter Twombly in 2018, will step away to pursue a teaching opportunity in Tanzania. (File photo by Nick Goralczyk)

While Warsaw generates most, if not all, of the headlines in boys basketball in Lake City, Chris Hohm was quietly, and I mean, quietly, going about his business on the other side of town. For six years at Lakeland Christian Academy, Hohm changed the identity of the basketball program, and set a standard both on and off the court that will be tough to replace. At least, for two years.

Hohm took over an LCA program that was literally making its own identity. While the school had played successful basketball within the Christian school ranks, stepping into the IHSAA world in 2012 was a totally different galaxy. And after becoming the third coach in as many seasons, Hohm found himself with a very young team that didn’t know him or his style. Coming from Rochester, Hohm and the Cougars won just one game in his first year.

That turned to four in year two, then eight in year three. Then the hallmark moment for the Academy came at Hamilton High School on Feb. 28, 2018. Hohm celebrated the team’s first-ever sectional win after taking down Smith Academy. It was a goal, a big goal. And as the Cougars started to believe in Hohm, the program took another step.

Hohm won’t be tabbed as an all-timer in the sense of wins and losses as he steps away from LCA after six years on the bench. His 42-103 mark would likely get several coaches fired at bigger schools. But it was what he did within those 145 games that gained overwhelming approval within Cougar Nation. He didn’t need to scream. He didn’t need to rant and rave to make his point. He believed that talent could be developed from within, drawing out ability with support and encouragement. It was much different than most were used to, and for six years, it worked.

LCA started adding bigger schools to its schedule because Hohm believed his kids could handle the competition. They may not have won them with regularity, but it was a start. The team played in its first sectional championship game Saturday night. It ended in a 53-point loss, but will be celebrated as a step in the process. As Hohm and his family venture to Tanzania for a two-year teaching and service opportunity, that approach will serve him well in another place that may not know him, but will surely like him.

AN ALL-AROUND LEADER

Nika Prather, in the back row with the green top, stands with over two dozen current and former gymnasts that she has worked with over a 33-year coaching career. (File photo by Mike Deak)

Nika Prather was stunned at the number of people that came to see her coach her last gymnastics dual meet two weeks ago. Admitting she was always recruiting former gymnasts to come back and coach with her, one – Sarah Wegener – worked with her for 11 years before also announcing she is stepping away. The two are leaving a gigantic hole in a gymnastics program that enters an offseason with an abundant set of question marks.

Prather’s story has been told before, but what many may not realize is Prather not only was a head coach for 26 years at Wawasee, but was first an assistant for seven years under Tracy Sumpter. The two are largely responsible for one of the most storied programs in Indiana High School gymnastics. Until 2016, Wawasee held the most sectional championships in the sport (23) before Valpo won its 24th.

Prather’s dedication to the sport and to the girls who participated will follow her out of the Wawasee annex gym. Her work with the Lakeland Youth Center in Syracuse as a teacher and also with the youth gymnastics program, as well as creating the Wawasee Gymnastics Club has impacted thousands of children, many coming to compete for her at the high school level.

Posted In: Boy's Sports > Basketball

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