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Former area coaches move rivalry away from county

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Cliff Hawkins and Jerry Bomholt can’t seem to generate any professional space between themselves.

Hired in June to lead Madison High School’s boys basketball program, Hawkins’ debut game in November is against Bomholt’s Southwestern (Hanover) squad.

Their new workplaces are separated by seven miles.

If this scenario seems eerily familiar, it’s because Hawkins and Bomholt opened the past two boys basketball seasons against one another while coaching Center Grove and Franklin Community, respectively.

The two are also linked historically.

Bomholt ranks 11th among Indiana’s current boys basketball coaches with 463 career victories, while Hawkins is No. 13 with 453.

“The only reason Hawkins is following me is because it assures him at least one victory,” joked Bomholt, who was hired by Southwestern on April 29 after producing a 31-14 record and a pair of Johnson County Tournament titles in two seasons at Franklin. “Madison hired a good coach.

“It’s been up-and-down there, and they’ve been through some coaches.”

So, too, has Southwestern.

Bohmholt, 61, served as the school’s head coach from 1997 to 2002, posting a 78-35 record. Since his departure, the Rebels have gone through four head coaches for an 83-181 record (.314). The program officially bottomed out last winter, going 1-21 with an average losing margin of 30 points per game.

Hawkins, meanwhile, is Madison’s fifth coach since the 1999-2000 season. The Cubs in that time are 164-160 (.506) with five winning seasons and two Class 3A sectional championships.

Southwestern, as a Class 2A program, plays its longtime county rival only once each season, though it’s usually memorable.

“The (rivalry) is called the Turkey Shoot, and down here it’s pretty huge. The gym will be packed because of the timing of it being at Thanksgiving break,” Bomholt said. “And Southwestern and Madison really don’t like each other.”

The same can’t be said for the coaches.

Hawkins and Bomholt have always had tremendous respect for each other, their programs splitting the four games played during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.

Bomholt is the last Southwestern coach to enjoy success against Madison. His team’s 64-52 decision to open the 2000-01 season has been followed by 13 consecutive Cubs’ victories in which nine of the final margins were by double-figures.

Hawkins remarked tongue-in-cheek how Bomholt probably will have his Rebels open the game playing man-to-man defense — a drastic departure from Bomholt’s trademark 1-2-2 zone — against his Cubs simply as a brief means of amusement.

Bomholt is thinking about finding a colorfully polka-dotted jacket to wear during pregame warm-ups. (Madison famously wore polka-dotted uniforms during the early- and mid-1960s.)

Hawkins, 60, looks back fondly at what was accomplished at Center Grove during his 10 seasons there.

At the same time, the man who began his coaching career at Caston High School before moving on to Tri-Central, Greenfield-Central, DeKalb and then Center Grove can’t help but enthusiastically look forward.

Madison’s program is steeped in tradition with 38 sectional titles, four single-class Final Four appearances (1941, ‘49, ‘50 and ‘62) and a state championship in 1950.

“I’m really, really excited about it. I like places that preserve their tradition because it builds their future,” Hawkins said. “I’ve coached in northern Indiana and central Indiana, but this is my first time coaching in the south, and they really love their basketball down here.

“For me it’s about building a program. It’s about the people. We hope we can contribute to their legacy.”

Madison High School athletic director Ken Brunner believes Hawkins will.

“As soon as Cliff applied there was no doubt he was the most seasoned candidate,” Brunner said. “After you hear him talk, you’re ready to play yourself. We were impressed by him from the very start.”

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