Making most of talent: Coach’s community roots fuels season


For The Tribune

When Greg Kilgore first became the boys basketball head coach at Crothersville High School, he felt a little pressure associated with the job.

Kilgore graduated from Crothersville High School in 1985, where he played for coach Jerry Owens.

“I think, initially, I felt a little more pressure,” Kilgore said. “But then you realize that for the most part, you’re at a school the size of Crothersville, and you’re kind of playing with the hand your dealt, and there are going to be years where you’re going to have some talent.”

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These days, Kilgore is more connected than ever to the basketball realm.

“My wife got tickled the other day after church,” Kilgore said. “We were sitting around, and I got calls or emails from three or four different coaches wanting to know what we did against Borden and what we had done against different teams on our schedule this year that we had beaten.

“My wife said, ‘You haven’t gotten many of those the past few years.’ I said, ‘Well, this year, we’re 8-3, so guys think I know what I’m doing a little better.’ I haven’t changed anything from the first five years. I’ve just got a little more talent this year. When you’re doing the same things, it looks a little better when you’ve got better kids doing it.”

In one way or another, Kilgore is connected to almost every player in the program.

Kilgore said there are four kids on the varsity team this year — and probably eight in the program altogether — that he either played ball or was at least in classes with their fathers.

“Even the Wilson boy (Dylan) who came back from Seymour, me and his dad (Steve) went to school together from third grade up until his junior year when he went to Seymour,” he said. “You form a bond with those parents.”

In recent years, Kilgore has seen an influx of support from the community.

“Even a few guys who don’t have a connection with the program anymore, Steve Couch and a few others, come to games now and support me and come into the locker room after the game,” Kilgore said. “They’ll either pat me on the back after a loss or give me a high-five after a win. It feels good to have them coming back.

“Jerry has come back to several games this year and the past few years to show support. It’s good, and it’s kind of like the kids talk all the time about bonding. I think sometimes what they don’t understand is that’s a lifetime bond, and that’s kind of what I’m seeing with Jerry and Steve and people coming back to our games is we still have that bond from the 1980s.”

After graduating from Crothersville High School, Kilgore attended Indiana University Southeast and spent time in the U.S. Army. He returned to Crothersville in the mid-1990s and coached at the elementary and middle school levels.

He then took five years off and was a night shift supervisor at Excel Manufacturing. He was there 16 years before returning to the high school.

“I came back to school, and I was Jim Stewart’s JV coach for four years and Clint Waskom’s JV coach for three years,” Kilgore said. “I coached JV for seven years before moving up to varsity. This is my sixth year as varsity coach.”

Crothersville hired Kilgore as the school’s athletic director in 2016.

He said he has seen a lot of changes since he played and began coaching.

“It’s still five-on-five, but that’s probably the only thing that’s still similar,” he said. “The 3-point line changed a lot as far as philosophy and mindset. I think the game is a lot more physical than when I played. I think the officials allow it to be more physical. It’s just the way the game is played now.

“There is more contact both in the paint and on the perimeter than was allowed 15 to 20 years ago. I think it’s a faster pace. The kids are stronger and more physical than they were, and I think that’s at all levels.”

Kilgore said he hasn’t had many players in the 6-foot-4 or 6-5 range to work with, which can pose a challenge against bigger teams.

“This year, with (6-6) Dylan Wilson, we’ve got a little size, but aside from him the last five years, we haven’t had anybody over 6-1 or so, and that just makes it that much more important to box out and rebound on the defensive end,” Kilgore said. “A lot of teams, even though we play mostly 1A and 2A competition, we’ll still play a lot of them that will have a kid 6-4 or 6-5, and you’ve really got to find them and put a body on them and box them out.

“On the flip side of that, a thing that probably helped us not being as big those several years is now a lot of those 6-4, 6-5 kids want to go out and shoot the jump shot. They’re not as inside-oriented as they may have been 20 years ago because everybody wants to go out and shoot the 3.”

One of the most important facets for Kilgore is making sure to take full advantage of practices.

“We’re still really structured with what we do in practice,” Kilgore said. “We have a pretty regimented two-hour practice. Early in the week, it’s mostly skills-oriented where we’ll do a lot of fundamental ball-handling, passing defensive drills.

“As we get to the middle part of the week, we may actually touch base on defensive philosophies and things, and usually by the time we get to the latter part of the week, Thursday especially, Thursday and Friday if we don’t play until Saturday, we put in a game plan for the weekend and that kind of thing.”

Kilgore said the number of kids who try out for the team each season has held steady.

“Our numbers since I’ve taken over have stayed that way,” he said. “The first year I took over, we actually had 27 kids come out, and we took three teams to summer camp that year. Since then, it has held steady around the 20 number. This year, we’re at 21. That pushes us for playing time and starting spots. That keeps the kids in tune.”

The Tigers’ schedule has changed slightly over the years.

“It has altered a little bit, not a ton,” Kilgore said. “The IHSAA has allowed it to open up a little. It seemed like forever, you were allowed 20 games maximum, and now the last few years, they’ve opened it up, and if you schedule your tournaments just right, I think you can actually squeeze 25 games in before the sectional, so you’ve got a little more leeway as far as scheduling the number of games.

“We’ve still got all the (Southern Athletic) conference schools on there that we’ve always played and Medora, Austin, Trinity, some of the more local teams that we keep on there. This year, we’ve added Edinburgh because they shifted the sectional around, and now, they’re a sectional opponent.”

Kilgore said although he still likes to scout opponents in person, he can scout opponents over the computer.

“It’s crazy, and it saves so much on travel and time,” he said. “I still like to go see every team we’re going to play at least once before we play them because it kind of gives you a gauge that is kind of hard to see on an actual game film, but it’s so easy.

“Each sectional opponent that we could play, I’ve probably got five of their films. Now, a coach will ask if they can get a copy of the Borden film, and I click one button, and it goes to them. You have to allow them to see it.”

The Tigers participate in a three-day team camp in Terre Haute over the summer. Kilgore said time spent when school is out of session is important.

“The thing that the parents don’t even think about and some of the other community people, too, is that’s a great time for coaches to evaluate personnel as far as who’s developing because most of the time what happens is you’ll play those games during the month of June,” he said.

“You’ve had May and maybe a little bit of April to do some open gym stuff and do some weight room stuff where you try to do some individual development of kids in some different areas. Those camps and leagues in June have really let you see how the kids have come around.”

Kilgore said he feels like the youth at Crothersville enjoy the game of basketball.

“The biggest thing with the younger kids, and I think it’s even more true today than maybe it was 30 years ago, is the love of the game,” he said. “They’re just so happy to be there. You see a third-grader or a fourth-grader make a shot, and it’s like NCAA championship time. It’s a lot of fun for those kids.”

With so many different outlets, Kilgore has seen a shift with kids’ involvement in basketball.

“When you get to the varsity level today, there are so many other interests for the kids outside,” Kilgore said. “In the ‘70s and ‘80s, you could drive around Crothersville, and there would be five or six different spots full of kids playing ball, and half of them were not even on the basketball team.

“Today, you’ll hardly see any kids. It’s just kind of a lost art today that kids don’t do that. Part of it is the kids play multiple sports, and the other part is the kids play video games.”

One of the best parts of coaching for Kilgore is seeing the kids grow.

“I enjoy seeing kids develop and seeing kids grow,” he said. “In the six years I’ve been coaching, I think Eli Mollet is the only kid I’ve sent on to play college basketball, but I’ve got five kids in the military. I tell the kids all the time, ‘If you’re not going on to college for anything, join the military for two or three years. That will help you mature.’”

Kilgore plans on staying in Crothersville for years to come.

“I started playing basketball in this same gym in third grade,” Kilgore said. “So for 42 years, basketball has been that gym and that locker room and this building. That’s the way it will be until I decide to give it up.”

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