Walt Raines’ run as the dean of Johnson County basketball coaches ends the instant Franklin Community High School’s girls season does.
The distinction then belongs to Greenwood boys coach Bruce Hensley.
Raines, who has presided over five sectional championships, assorted Mid-State Conference titles and a Class 3A runner-up finish in 1998 with the Grizzly Cubs, made it known in October that his 28th season would be his last.
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This is Hensley’s 27th year as boys coach at his alma mater.
Friends for years despite working for different school systems, the Franklin College graduates are monuments to longevity in a profession known to occasionally opt for the quick fix.
If there is a secret, Raines said, it’s one’s surroundings.
This includes everything from the administration appreciating the positive impact you’re making in young lives to the players you coach to the fans supporting your squad both at home and on the road.
“The key, No. 1, is the community you’re in. That is where I have been very fortunate because Franklin is a great community,” said Raines, whose 336 career victories places him 13th among active girls basketball coaches in Indiana.
“The key, also, is to not let things that are said by individuals bother you. You have to let it roll off and stay focused on the fact if you want to coach kids and you enjoy kids, make them the priority. You’re always going to have naysayers.”
Sometimes that’s enough to sour a coach on a location. Impatience among school administrators and influential community members also has been known to contribute to a program changing coaches.
During the past offseason 71 of the 398 boys basketball teams in Indiana — or nearly 18-percent — named a new head coach. It was even higher in girls hoops, with 102 coaching changes representing 26 percent of the state’s high school programs.
Another telling factor is that only 10 of the 29 all-time winningest basketball coaches in Indiana, both with girls and boys, are currently leading programs. Only 12 of the winningest girls coaches experienced a tenure longer than Raines’.
Hensley is in the process of trying to lead his sophomore-dominated Woodmen team to the program’s first winning record since 2005-06. That group finished 17-5; Greenwood is 51-152 (.251) ever since.
A youthful 60 years old, Hensley would prefer to continue to lead the program for which he played during the early 1970s in the seasons ahead.
“It’s a love for what you’re doing, and year in and year out you have good kids to work with. I would say as much as anything it’s those two things,” said Hensley, who since taking over prior to the 1989-90 season has 245 wins and two sectional titles (1990-91 and 2001-02).
“I think you just have to keep focused on why you’re in it and what you’re doing. What values you’re trying to teach the kids. Just because you’re not winning doesn’t mean you can’t teach values and life lessons to them.”
Coaching as long as they have forced both Raines and Hensley to adapt when it comes to the teenagers whose games and lives they help shape.
“Now there are a lot more things for kids to do. There’s a lot more involvement as far as parents and outside coaches goes. Everything outside the game has changed. Everything inside the game, it’s not changed that much,” Raines said.
“Kids are the same as they used to be. The difference is the things around the kids. Again, their priorities are a little different than they used to be.”
Life has a way of telling every coach when it’s time to get out.
For Raines, one sign is the fact he now has nine grandchildren ranging in age from 6 weeks up to 12 years old. Seven of the grandchildren live in this area.
“It’s time from the standpoint that my grandkids are involved in more and more things. My wife, Pam, and I been married for 29 years, and I’ve been coaching for 28. I missed so many things of my kids, I didn’t want to do the same thing to them,” said Raines, 57.
“And Pam and I had gone through a little bit of a health scare with her heart, and I think we have that worked out. We wanted to have some time where we were still young enough to go do some things.”
Which Raines in time will do. It just won’t involve coaching.
THE RAINES FILE
Name: Walt Raines
Family: Wife, Pam; sons, Ryan, 34, and Randy, 28; daughters, Amy, 32, and Anesa, 31; nine grandchildren
High school: Muncie Burris (1976)
College: Franklin College (1980)
Major: History education
Favorite athlete: Larry Bird
Favorite team: St. Louis Cardinals
BEST OF TIMES
Here are some of the most-accomplished teams in the coaching careers of Walt Raines and Bruce Hensley:
1997-1998: 21-6 (Class 3A runner-up)
2000-2001: 15-8 (3A sectional champion)
2007-2008: 17-8 (4A sectional champion)
1990-1991: 11-13 (Sectional champion)
2001-2002: 17-8 (4A sectional champion)