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Veteran coach brings winning ways to Roncalli

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There is no geographical pattern to the basketball coaching career of Stan Benge, who over the past 38 years has worked his craft on Indianapolis’ westside, downtown and twice on the southside.

Victories are and have long been the common denominator for Benge.

The first-year Roncalli girls coach has 14 this season and 533 overall entering Wednesday’s home game against Chatard.

His career total places the 60-year-old westsider fifth all-time among Indiana girls coaches.

Benge’s number would undoubtedly be higher had he not taken a hiatus from prep competition to be an assistant women’s coach at IUPUI the past two seasons.

Now he’s back, and Benge’s first go-round with the Rebels netted seven consecutive wins to open the 2013-14 season.

“Coaching is coaching, whether you’re coaching sixth-grade or a high school team,” Benge said. “It’s never easy. It’s difficult because you’re your own worst critic. You’re always wondering, ‘Did I do the right thing?’ or ‘Did I say the right thing?’”

Roncalli hired Benge last spring after April McDivitt-Schilling, Indiana’s Miss Basketball in 1999 who led the program to a 24-4 record and Class 4A semistate berth, left after one season (her husband, Ed, had been hired to be an assistant coach by UCLA men’s basketball coach Steve Alford).

It signaled the return to where it all started for Benge, a Roncalli assistant boys basketball coach during the 1976-77 and 1977-78 seasons.

He would go on to become girls coach at Ben Davis, his alma mater. In 26 seasons (1985-2011) Benge’s steady demeanor played a major part in the Giants emerging as one of the state’s most decorated programs.

Twenty-one of the school’s 24 sectional championships, 11 of its 13 regional titles and all five semistates were with Benge drawing up plays.

Ben Davis from 2000-2010 celebrated four Class 4A state championships, the 2009 and 2010 Giants teaming to post a 58-0 record. The coach’s 2009-10 Ben Davis ballclub often is referred to as the finest ever to step onto a basketball court in Indiana, having beaten 23 of 28 opponents by 20 or more points.

The 2010-11 season turned out to be the coach’s last at Ben Davis. After winning their first 23 games, the Giants lost a 65-62 decision to Carmel in the regional title game at Decatur Central.

Still wanting to coach, Benge assisted IUPUI women’s head coach Austin Parkinson for two seasons before deciding to apply for the Roncalli job.

He is the Rebels’ third coach in as many seasons following McDivitt-Schilling and her predecessor, Sara Riedeman, who had posted a 68-28 record in her four seasons (2008-12). Riedeman is now an assistant women’s basketball coach at Indiana State University.

Benge is the program’s first male coach since longtime Roncalli mentor Bob Kirkhoff stepped aside following the 2000-01 season.

“I’m sure it’s been difficult for them,” said Benge of his older players. “I told them, ‘You can look at it negatively or you can look at it positively.’ It’s tough on them because I’m sure they formed bonds with those coaches. I’m sure some of them liked Riedeman and some of them liked April.”

Laughing, he added, “Then here comes this old guy.”

McDivitt-Schilling in her one season opted for the Rebels to drop back in a 2-3 zone on defense. Benge has long been a believer in man-to-man defense.

The current Roncalli squad is led by 6-foot sophomore Lindsey Corsaro, who paces the Rebels in scoring (18.9) and rebounding (10.6). Seniors Elizabeth Bowers (11.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Kellie Kirkhoff (10.9 ppg, 2.7 steals per game) also are enjoying outstanding seasons.

Wednesday’s game with Chatard is the first of Roncalli’s final three regular-season contests. The Rebels then travel to Southport next Tuesday and to Perry Meridian on Feb. 5 before competing in a Class 4A sectional at Tech along with the likes of top-ranked Lawrence North.

It’s here the Rebels benefit from following the lead of a man who’s seen and witnessed most every pressure-packed situation the sport can offer.

“I think you know more scenarios because of all the situations you’ve had to experience,” Benge said. “Overall, people are people.”

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