Change of scenery

Desire to focus on family brings coach to Greenwood, back to basketball

At some point, parents come to the realization that they’ve got a finite amount of time to spend with their children before they are grown and off living their own lives.

Bill Torgerson didn’t want to miss out on any more of that time.

For the last 11 years, Torgerson had been working as a professor of writing at St. John’s University in New York and staying in an apartment while his family was in Asheville, North Carolina. Splitting time between the two places, he would sometimes go more than a week at a time without seeing his wife or their two daughters.

“I had a lot of free time,” Torgerson said. “I had time for naps, I had time to work out every day — but I felt like there was a certain amount of time where I was sitting around in my apartment waiting to get back home to my life where my family was in Asheville.”

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With a more stable home life in mind, Torgerson returned to his native Indiana, and he’s in his first year as a high school English teacher and the varsity girls basketball coach at Greenwood.

All of Torgerson’s previous coaching experience has been with high school boys, most of it in Indiana. The head coach at North Miami from 1994 to 1999, Torgerson then served as an assistant coach at Fort Wayne Carroll under current Greenwood athletic director Rob Irwin. The two helped guide the Chargers to the Final Four in 2001.

After one year as an assistant for a state title team at Vance High School in North Carolina while attending graduate school at UNC-Charlotte, Torgerson stepped away from coaching altogether.

He filled much of that time by writing four novels, three of which were published. The first of those, “Love on the Big Screen,” was a semi-autobiographical story of a college basketball player whose understanding of love is based on the romantic comedies of the 1980s.

That book was adapted into a movie, and Torgerson was awarded Best Screenplay at the Rhode Island Film Festival. As he watched some of the short films there, he decided he wanted to start creating his own.

“If you read a script to see how scripts work, you can write a script,” he said.

Torgerson directed a feature-length documentary, “For the Love of Books,” along with four short films. The first of those, “The Mushroom Hunter,” which followed his father and some of his friends as they hunted for morel mushrooms. A local independent theater in Asheville, Grail Moviehouse, would show each of his films as they came out, and he was looking forward to doing others — but Torgerson decided his family was more important.

Especially with the clock ticking on their time at home — his daughters, Charlotte and Isabel, are now in sixth and fourth grade, respectively.

“I had more films I wanted to do about Asheville,” he said. “But in comparison to trying to create a better situation for the four of us to be together, to be in the same house every night, it was not as hard to give up.”

Though his wife, Megan, is a North Carolina native, they decided that there were better educational resources in Indiana, so Torgerson began to seek out coaching and teaching positions. He first applied at Park Tudor before reconnecting with Irwin, who just happened to have an opening following the departure of Lee Taft after two seasons.

It didn’t take Irwin long to hire his old friend.

“I knew what he brought,” Irwin said. “Not only is he a good coach, he’s a good person, and he’s going to be a good teacher for our corporation. He just makes everything here better.

“I trust him. I know what he’s about and what he wants, and what he wants to build.”

Just as Torgerson anticipated, there are plenty of first-year challenges that have accompanied his return to K-12 education, including long hours that sometimes mean he doesn’t see much of his family.

He’s confident that the payoff down the line — the years that his daughters can ride to the high school with him and potentially play for him as Woodmen — will be worth it.

Plus, Torgerson said he had come to realize that he preferred being in a gym working with young basketball players to sitting in a lecture hall showing a documentary to some college students.

“Realizing that the thing I like doing the most is working with young people through the vehicle of basketball, I decided I wanted to teach and coach, and I decided the place to do that was Indiana,” Torgerson said.

“This is a choice to throw my life into the young people of a community.”

He doesn’t miss writing so much — after doing it nearly every day for more than a decade, he explained, he’d said just about everything he had to say. The filmmaking was more difficult for Torgerson to give up, but he figures he’ll be able to take another crack at it once his daughters are grown up.

For now, he’d rather take full advantage of the years he has left with them at home.

“There’ll be a lot of time where they’re busy living their lives,” Torgerson said. “I can go back to that stuff if I want to.”

At a glance

New Greenwood girls basketball coach Bill Torgerson published three novels and directed five films during his 11 years as a college professor. A list of his works:

Books

“Love on the Big Screen” (2011)

“Horseshoe” (2012)

“The Coach’s Wife” (2015)

Films

“For the Love of Books” (2012)

“The Mushroom Hunter” (2013)

“Christopher’s Garden” (2014)

“Brothers in Pursuit” (2014)

“On the French Broad River” (2016)

Author photo
Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.