Milestone victories aren’t new to Indian Creek High School football coach Mike Gillin, who soon will experience yet another.
With one more win, Gillin will become only the eighth coach in IHSAA credited with 300 career football victories.
But Gillin, 65, who reversed the gridiron fortunes at Tri-West and Decatur Central prior to accepting the Braves’ job in 2001, knows getting No. 300 won’t be easy.
Indian Creek’s first three opponents this season — Lawrenceburg, Greenwood and Owen Valley — all won seven games a year ago.
The latter two are road contests.
Previous coaching landmarks such as career victories Nos. 100 and 200 are somewhat hazy to Gillin, who thinks the first might have been against Danville, but isn’t positive.
Victory No. 200 took place in Week 3 of Indian Creek’s 2004 season, a 43-7 blitzing of Beech Grove.
“They’re milestones, no question about it. After No. 200, reaching 300 was always a goal I didn’t talk too much about,” Gillin said. “You try to take it year to year and get your teams prepared the best you can.
“I’ve had a formula I’ve tried to stick with my whole career, and I hope it works this year.”
Indian Creek averages a shade under nine victories per season on Gillin’s watch.
This didn’t happen by accident.
Gillin established a specific football culture in southwestern Johnson County from the ground floor on up through the high school athletes he coaches.
“It’s being involved with getting fundamentals taught at every level and making the game fun. I’ve not interviewed for many jobs, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I’ve always felt all three situations were good when it came to community support and things like that.
“But I would trade all of the wins for one state championship.”
As a young volunteer assistant coach, Gillin was part of head coach Dave Enright’s staff at Hamilton Southeastern before moving on to become an assistant for Wayne Stahley at Monrovia.
As a head coach, Gillin’s 1988 Tri-West squad made it to a Class 2A semistate before losing at South Spencer. The following season the Bruins advanced all the way to the Hoosier Dome, where Fort Wayne Luers booted a last-second field goal to prevail 24-22.
Other heartbreaks in Gillin’s 37 seasons as a head coach include Indian Creek losing at Southridge in a 2002 regional final, and his final Decatur Central squad (2000) coming up short in a Class 5A sectional championship against Ben Davis, 24-21.
But in the coaching life of Mike Gillin, triumphs trump failure by a convincing margin.
“Indian Creek’s execution, especially offensively, it’s their preciseness and route-running (that) is difficult to defend,” said Greenwood head coach Mike Campbell, whose Class 4A program is 6-2 against the Braves since the series began in 2008.
“Defensively, they always have solid schemes because they are very well-coached,” Campbell said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for what Mike has been able to accomplish as a football coach.”
No longer the fist-pumping 20-something that took over the Tri-West program in the late-1970s, Gillin has managed to gracefully evolve over the course of his coaching career.
And while his hair is now gray and the facial lines more prominent, Gillin remains every bit the competitor.
A trait he inherited from his father, Bill, now 87.
“There’s no question that’s what drives me. It’s what makes me who I am,” Gillin said. “I think the players see this and it rubs off on them, too.”
THE 300 CLUB
Russ Radtke;New Prairie;330-129*
Bob Clayton;Heritage Hills;320-74
Dick Dullaghan;Ben Davis;312-59
Mike Gillin;Indian Creek;299-112*