BOONE: History of New Ross Basketball: The coaches — Part One
April 1, 2019
New Ross became a launching pad for great coaches in the era from the middle 50s to the late 60s. From 1953 to 1965, The Bluejays won four county tourneys, four sectionals, and two regionals, posting a record of 229-51 for a winning percentage of .817. John Ward, who would later become the Superintendent of Schools for Montgomery County, was the first New Ross principal and coach. Ward would remain in that position for six years. From 1916 to the closing of the school in 1971, no coach would remain longer than four years. Glen Harper had the longest tenure after John Ward. Harper, a Darlington HS and Butler University graduate came to New Ross in 1952 and immediately changed the climate for the Bluejays. The school had suffered through seven straight losing seasons when Harper arrived on the scene and posted a 10-11 record as he started two freshman, a sophomore and a junior. The next year was 1954 and the Bluejays were 20-4 and won the sectional, the first tournament of any type in the school’s history. They were led by Melvin Routh, Bernie Burk, Richard Haffner, and Fred Harris. Harper’s 1955 team was also 20-4, but lost to the Crawfordsville team that went to the semi-state. In Harper’s last year the Jays reeled off 26 straight wins before losing to Gary Froebel in the Lafayette Semi-state. They won the county, sectional, and regional that year. The mainstays of the 1956 team were Richard Haffner, Larry Nichols, Larry Myers, Tom Harmon, and Benny McAnulty.
Haffner would finish his career as the leading scorer in New Ross history as he scored 1,445 points. Bernie Burk who graduated in 1955 was behind Haffner with 1,171 points. Glen Harper moved on to Noblesville where he led the Millers to their first winning season in thirteen years and their first sectional championship in 29 years. Harper would leave Noblesville 14 years later with a record of 149-130, winning seven of eight sectionals and the Kokomo regional in 1957 and 1964. When Harper was inducted into the Noblesville Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013, he was honored in the “Gymnasium that Glen Harper built.” After leaving Noblesville, Glen Harper coached at Hagerstown for two years and Twin Lakes for three years. He remembers his days at New Ross as a lot of fun and recalls how great his players were.
He said, “They worked hard and paid attention. They just wanted to win.”
Tom Spear was a 1957 Purdue graduate who lettered for the Boilermakers in baseball in 1956 and 1957; he was named MVP in 1956. Spear succeeded John Hochstetler at New Ross and stayed two years posting a record of 36-7; the Bluejays won the County tourney in 1959. Spear then moved on to his home town of Brookston where he coached the Bombers for six years winning three sectionals. When Brookston and Chalmers consolidated forming Frontier, Spear was named coach and led the Falcons for two years winning one sectional. After leaving Frontier, there were stops at Elwood and Wawasee before settling at Lafayette Harrison where he had an outstanding career coaching baseball (10 years) and basketball (5 years) for the Raiders. Tom Spear would end his career with a record of 269-159 in basketball and 541-191 in baseball.
Bill Boone is a local sports historian who contributes to the Journal Review.