I looked across The McNally Gymnasium at Greencastle High School on Saturday night just before tip-off of the sectional final between North Montgomery and Danville and had to look no farther than the first couple of rows to get my answer on the difference of this year’s Charger basketball team from the previous 10.
There sat AJ Sutherlin, Lucas Galloway, Alex Hall, Brice Murphy, and Clay Cummings — all former Chargers — supporting the 2020 team play for a sectional title.
First-year coach Chad Arnold has preached all season of guys buying into the process and intensity he has brought to the program, but getting fans and former players to buy-in is the ultimate tip of the cap to coach Arnold, who took over a program that was coming off three straight losing seasons, and hadn’t played for a sectional title since 2009 until Saturday night.
From about 2004 to 2009 I sat in the upper northwest corner of the North Montgomery gym for every single home basketball game, and the Chargers were competitive year in and year out. Coach Scott Radeker led the Chargers to four sectional titles in five seasons during that time span, before leaving for the Lafayette Jeff job in 2010. Following a five win season last year, the Charger program was starting to look like a shell of its former self.
I was there last spring when North Montgomery athletic director Matt Merica introduced coach Arnold to the team. And I could see it in the players’ eyes ‘oh here we go again.’
But Arnold just went to work. Coach Arnold had a vision, and he had the perfect group of seniors to start the process of turning the Charger basketball program back into a winning one.
“They (seniors) mean so much to me,” he said following the loss on Saturday. “Words can’t describe how proud I am of them. They’ve gone through, what am I now their third coach? “To allow me to come in and the way I coach and accept it and start a whole new system and to be coachable. That’s what I want going forward from every kid in our program and if they’re not like that I don’t want them.”
Now I don’t feel like writing this would be fair without mentioning the three coaches that came between Radeker and Arnold. I know all three of them personally, and Joel Grindle was the type of guy that any athletic program and school wants as a coach or teacher, and as a student for three of his six seasons, him and his family made North Montgomery a better place with their presence. I don’t know if I’ve met someone who knows the game of basketball quite like Eric Danforth, and I know I’ve never met someone who enjoys being around and molding young men like Andrew Evertts. The lack of success in the last decade (keep in mind coach Grindle did have three winning seasons) accounted for a multitude of things. Lack of talent, parents, and other factors — taking absolutely nothing away from what those coaches accomplished.
However, coach Arnold is different, and that was apparent very early on. He got the most out of his players, and most of all they started believing in themselves.
“I think the big thing is we started believing in ourselves,” he said. “Attitude wise I thought we had good attitudes, and we believed in ourselves.”
The senior group of Jaron Bradford, Keifer Carmean, Kade Kobel, Preston Shaw, Jack Thompson, and Alex Wallace deserved all the success they earned. They put in the effort, they made North Montgomery proud, and they have all helped changed the culture of North Montgomery basketball.
And I think it goes without saying they returned some of the same gratitude to the football program as well.
Kudos to those young men.
Jared McMurry was born and raised in Montgomery County and is the Sports Editor of the Journal Review. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone at 765-918-8656. Follow him on Twitter @jaredmac26