A good portion of the east wall in the Greensburg High School gymnasium is devoted to Pirates basketball teams and players of the past.
Neighbors forever both in time and space are large black-and-white celebration photographs of coach Keith Greve’s 1966 and 1967 boys basketball squads, champions of the Columbus Regional.
To the left of this display is the framed No. 9 jersey of 1949 Indiana All-Star John “Johnny Bill” Moeller. To the right, the No. 6 worn by 2001 girls All-Star Sara Riedeman.
No more than a bounce pass away, eighth-year boys coach Stacy Meyer quietly watches his players loosen up with routine drives to the basket for layups and seemingly effortless two-handed drops.
Many Indiana high schools have a cherished two- or three-year window in which the boys basketball program dominates opponents on the court and conversation off it. This city of 11,000-plus residents located 50 miles southeast of Indianapolis has experienced its share, but nothing like this.
Since the outset of the 2011-2012 season, the Pirates are a mind-boggling 62-3. Standing in the way of perfection were the Class 3A regional loss to Brownstown Central in 2012, last season’s 72-65 disappointment at Eastern Indiana Conference rival Batesville and Friday’s home loss to Madison in overtime.
Meyer’s 2012-2013 ball club rebounded to capture the 3A state championship at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Anchored by returning starters Bryant McIntosh, Sean Sellers, Ryan Welage, Collin Rigney and Macy Holdsworth, this winter’s version is outscoring foes by an average of 27 points a game.
Living the coaching dream is Meyer, 42, who was once on the opposite end of the coach-player dynamic in this very facility.
A 1990 Greensburg graduate, Meyer went on to play at Hanover College before starting his coaching journey in Johnson County as an assistant for Franklin College men’s basketball coach Kerry Prather.
Meyer set off on his own in 2001 by taking the Southwestern (Shelby) High School boys basketball job. The Spartans were 38-11 in Meyer’s two seasons and Class A state runner-up to Lafayette Central Catholic in 2003.
Then came a three-year coaching run at Whiteland before Meyer in the spring of 2006 decided to return to his alma mater.
“It’s been great. I graduated from here, so to be able to come back here has really been special,” said Meyer, who is 131-48 (.732) with four sectional and two regional titles since coming home.
“Three years ago when these (seniors) were sophomores, and some of them started as freshmen, we knew we had a special group. Did we know how special it was? No. How the community has taken hold has been outstanding. It has been special for the community, the school and obviously to the kids.”
Greensburg had been ranked No. 1 in Class 3A the entire season before Friday’s setback. The Pirates were a close second behind 4A Indianapolis Tech in the weekly Indiana Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) poll.
These are the best of basketball times. Ones the coach refuses to take for granted.
“Our gym seats 5,000. Our end, which is 2,700 of it, is full every home game. When we go on the road, our crowd is bigger than the home crowd,” Meyer said. “I call it ‘throwback basketball,’ where you go and the gym is packed. We have great support here in the community.”
The Prather influence
Meyer was an outstanding men’s basketball player at Hanover College from 1991-95. His 1,061 career points currently rank 33rd all-time among those who have worn the Panthers uniform.
Desiring to get into coaching, Meyer after graduation took at job working for Prather at Franklin College, one of Hanover’s main rivals. What ensued was a memorable six-year run for boss, understudy and the Grizzlies program as a whole from 1995-2001.
“Coach Prather was the best. In my second year there he turned over scouting to me; and, more than that, he stressed the importance of things outside of basketball such as family,” Meyer said.
“He treated us right, and that’s one of the reasons I worked six years with him. Any job I’ve gotten since then, he’s the first one I would call.”
Before joining the Grizzlies staff, Meyer preferred a slower, more methodical approach to the game at the offensive end. Through Prather he gained an appreciation for a more accelerated pace.
Greensburg this season averages 75.4 points a game, which makes it three consecutive seasons his Pirates have exceeded the 70-point barrier. They produced 71.3 a game last season and 76.4 while going 23-1 in 2011-2012.
“Stacy is one of those guys who can be demanding; but that being said, he is really good about trying to make kids play a certain way that is to their advantage. He was really good with the players while he was here, and we had a lot of fun,” Prather said.
“Kids like playing for him. He’s a really good teacher of the game, and I love watching his teams play. I saw his team play three times last season, and, boy, what an easy team to cheer for.”
Good fortune didn’t just blindside Meyer the minute he returned to Greensburg.
The coach’s first Pirates team in 2006-2007 finished 9-13 and lost its final five regular-season games by a total of 82 points. Greensburg was 9-12 the following season.
Then came the turnaround. A trip to the semistate in 2009 and a regional berth in 2010. Meyer’s current squad at 13-1 already has cemented what will be the program’s sixth consecutive winning season.
Enjoying the ride
If a downside exists to riding the kind of wave Greensburg continues to experience, it’s that those most directly involved can find themselves dividing their time into smaller portions.
Northwestern University won out over Purdue, Iowa, Vanderbilt, Xavier and others for the future services of McIntosh, the Pirates’ smooth 6-foot-4, 170-pound point guard. Sellers, a 6-6 forward, will be playing hoops at Ball State University the next four seasons.
Such status tends to bring radio, newspaper and television requests. Meyer, too, is stretched as thin as during any point in his coaching career.
“When I talk to Stacy he seems to be enjoying this rather than be consumed by it,” Prather said. “That’s just him. He goes about it his own way.”
Meyer knows the cyclical nature of sports in time can take away what it’s provided him these past few basketball seasons. He wants to relish his and the community’s good fortune, not wait to be reminded of it in 20 years by perusing through a sea of yellowed newspaper clippings.
“It hit when our seniors were sophomores because these guys were undefeated in the regular season. We’ve had two kids sign Division I, so they’re kind of used to that. All the kids are very mature and have handled it very well. So, no, it hasn’t bothered us, and the kids have approached it the right way,” Meyer said.
“The good thing is these guys have done a great job with our youth in the community. Our JV is undefeated, too. Will we have the hype next year that this group has had the past three years? Probably not. You hope the success part of it will continue, but I’m anxious as a coach, as a person, to see these guys two, three, four years down the road.”
As dominant as Meyer’s program is, nothing is assured once the postseason arrives.
Potentially making things interesting at the Greensburg Sectional are longtime rivals Batesville and Rushville. Facing No. 4 Corydon Central, seventh-ranked Brownstown Central or getting a rematch against Madison at Washington’s legendary Hatchet House at the 3A regional level would be no walk through the tulips, either.
Whatever transpires, the boys basketball team representing this city will do so through the leadership of one of its own.
“Coach Meyer is a players’ coach. He understands what we see in a game, what we feel and what we’re like in a game,” said McIntosh, who is one of the top contenders to be named Indiana’s 2014 Mr. Basketball along with Tech big man Trey Lyles, Park Tudor swingman Trevon Bluiett and Marion guard James Blackmon Jr.
“He just understands us better than I think other coaches can.”