Dave Benter says it takes a lot of hard work and many other things to put together a winning basketball program at the high school level year after year.
“Teams that everyone accepts their role and buy into the team first mentally are always the ones that overachieve and maximize their potential,” he said.
“Good leadership out of your players helps develop this culture, and I have been fortunate that most of my teams I have coached have had good leadership,” he said. “It is important that players are going home and hearing support from the parents, and in this regard, I have to be thankful for the parents I have had the last 23 years.”
On Feb. 23, Benter reached his 400th coaching win at Brownstown Central with a 61-44 victory over Clarksville.
“It means I’m getting old and I’ve had a lot of good players,” he said that night.
Benter has compiled a record of 403-153 at the helm of the Braves. He is the 24th active coach to reach 400 wins. Brownstown’s 2020-21 season came to an end March 5 in a 54-52 loss to Northview in the Owen Valley Sectional.
In his first year coaching the Braves in 1998-99, he said the team really struggled.
“We went 4-17 and lost our first six games,” he said. “None of them were within single digits. My first win came against Southwestern (Shelby).”
Changes in the game
During his tenure, he said there are several ways the game has changed.
“It is much more physical now than it was in the ‘90s,” he said. “Players are bigger and stronger than they used to be. I think there are also not as many kids willing to be part of a team if they don’t have a huge role.”
In the 1980s, he said a lot of schools had freshman A and B teams. That has changed now, as a lot of schools struggle to have the numbers for a C team.
“Schools do a better job of scouting now than they used to, and technology has helped with that,” Benter said.
Also, he said structured basketball is more year-round, as they are allowed to practice in the spring and fall and play games in the summer.
“Some kids just aren’t willing to put in that kind of time,” Benter said. “More kids play AAU than when I first started coaching.”
He said it takes a lot of hard work to be successful.
“People don’t always understand how much time you have to spend to be a good basketball player,” he said. “I always tell our team out of all sports that basketball may be the only one that you have to be physically good (strong and athletic or tall), mentally good (great understanding of the game and competitive personality) and skilled.
“I am not sure kids or parents watch as much basketball as they did when I first started, and this is one of the most critical aspects to develop and understanding of how to play,” he said.
Coaching a son
This winter, Dave coached his son, Jack, a freshman at Brownstown Central High School.
“I think people who don’t coach assume coaching your son is extremely difficult, but when I talked to other coaches who have done it, everyone talked about the fact that it is very enjoyable and not as difficult as most believe,” Dave said.
“Those coaches said it was some of their best memories they had as a father,” he said. “Jack has loved basketball since he was a little kid, so I think that has made it a very seamless transition this year because we both have the same goals and desires about wanting to win. I think it’s important you leave the coach tag at the gym and become dad at home, even though that is sometimes easier said than done.”
This winter, the Braves played on a new floor in their gymnasium.
“The new gym floor has been great this year,” Benter said. “I have heard so many compliments on it. I have always liked the sunken gym atmosphere we have at Brownstown. From the 2009-10 season to 2016-17 season, I think we only lost five home games, so the home atmosphere has been kind to us.”
Benter said he has been very fortunate to have the assistant coaches he has had at the varsity level.
“Kevin Gwin has been as loyal as any assistant I could ever imagine. Mark Lubker was around me for most of my first 22 years,” he said. “I have been fortunate that three of my former players, Brandon Allman, Michael Leitzman and Marty Young, have all been part of our program, and all of them do a great job. Mitchell Taylor has now come on as our freshman coach and has the desire to be a head coach and does a great job.”
For assistants, Benter said it’s important to have loyal people who either are relationship guys that communicate well with the players or guys who are really good with X’s and O’s.
“I am fortunate that my assistants check both of those criteria,” he said.
Mark DeHart was the Braves’ head coach for the three years prior to Benter taking on that role.
DeHart has been athletic director during Benter’s coaching at his alma mater. DeHart also was an assistant coach on Benter’s staff for 11 seasons from 2006 to 2016.
“This allowed me to share in so many wonderful basketball moments and memories,” DeHart said. “It has been a real pleasure to have worked with coach Benter for his entire head coaching career as one of his assistant coaches and as his athletic director. He has a wealth of basketball knowledge, is a tireless worker and finds ways to maximize each of his team’s individual’s strengths.”
On top of that, DeHart said Benter is an equally impressive and humble person.
“I can’t tell you how fortunate Brownstown is to have been able to keep coach Benter here for his entire career,” DeHart said.
Gwin just completed his 11th season as a varsity assistant after serving 12 years as junior varsity coach.
“Establishing a culture and competing at a high level for many years is obviously a satisfying experience,” Gwin said. “I have enjoyed watching coach Benter evolve and develop into one of the finest high school coaches in the state. His humility, basketball acumen, respect for the history and tradition of Indiana high school basketball and his willingness to commit and invest to teaching life lessons is humbling and inspirational.”
Gwin praised Benter’s flexibility, too.
“Furthermore, coach Benter has a refined ability to develop personnel, adapt to personnel and adjust to in-game situations,” Gwin said. “As a result, a camaraderie exists among the coaching staff and current and former players that resembles a traditional family.”
One of Benter’s main attributes is his willingness to listen and involve his coaching staff in practice, game preparation and in-game analysis, Gwin said.
“He provides his staff opportunities to scout, break down film, lead film sessions, offer suggestions, organize and lead practices and game plan,” he said. “Because of that, he has three former players who coach at the varsity level.”
With all of his accomplishments and success, Gwin said Benter is one of the most humble people he has ever met.
“He will credit God, his family, his players and his coaching staff before he acknowledges the impact that he has made on the basketball program in the last 23 years,” Gwin said. “He is a great coach, but he is an even better colleague and friend.”
Benter said one of the most memorable wins in a regular season was the 2003 victory over Austin, which was ranked No. 1 at the time.
“We had really been up and down, and it was a really good win for our program,” he said.
“We also beat Silver Creek during the regular season two seasons ago when they won the state championship,” he said. “Our 2016-17 team beat Evansville Reitz 106-104 in four overtimes (during a holiday tournament) in one of the most entertaining games I have been part of.”
Benter has coached the Braves to 10 Mid-Southern Conference titles.
He said there have been numerous special tournament wins since he has coached the Braves to nine sectional titles. In several of those championship games, the Braves trailed late and were fortunate to have really good players make huge plays late, he said.
“In 2004, we trailed Providence late and came back, and that started our run to the state championship game (losing to Jimtown 63-59),” he said. “Then in 2009, we hit a last-second 3 to win the championship game in overtime.”
The Braves advanced to the state championship game in Class 2A in 2009 and lost to Fort Wayne Bishop Luers.
“In 2012, we beat Salem in the championship game after trailing most of the game, and in 2012, we were down late and forced overtime with three free throws and won in overtime,” he said. “Beyond the sectional, the two semistate wins and the win over No. 1 Greensburg with three Division I players in 2012 in the regional were some of my most memorable games I have ever been part of.”