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Oldest active inductee to Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, 84-year-old Jerry Hoover still performing latest turn-arounds at Blackford

By: Chris Landis, April 29, 2019, 3:13 pm

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” — Mark Twain

NEW CASTLE — Eighty-four-year-old basketball coach Jerry Hoover, who earned the distinction of being the oldest active coach to ever be inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, had a great sense of humor regarding the honor.     

“At the age of 84, I have to be among the oldest persons to be inducted into the Hall. Hopefully, I will not be the person with the shortest tenure,” joked coach Hoover.

The event, which included a reception at the Hall of Fame museum in New Castle in the afternoon and a banquet at the Primo banquet Hall in Indianapolis, took place on March 20. 

Hoover, a 1952 graduate of Monticello High School, was a walk-on and played for the Purdue Boilermakers under Hall of Fame coaches Piggy Lambert and Ray Eddy, earning his Purdue degree in 1956.

Usually a man of few words, Hoover joked at the banquet saying, “I’ve got three minutes to talk about 70 years.”

Blackford Athletic Director Tony Uggen hired Hoover two years ago in hopes to turn around a program that was 1-73 leading into his tenure. Coach Hoover recently finished his second season at the helm where his Bruins are 31-15 over that time. 

“He appears to not have slowed down at all,” Uggen said of the 84-year-old-coach. “Age was never a concern. My job at the time was to find the best coach we could find and his track record as a coach was a no brainer. I get a lot of flak for bringing in ringers from many online, but several other schools had the chance to hire Jerry. I did because he was our best option. It turned it to be a pretty good hire, if I say so myself.”

Coach Hoover’s legacy has been turning programs around, including his last two stops with the Logansport girls program and his current position with the Blackford boys’ program. 

In his first four seasons at Logansport he went 19-69. In his last eight seasons he went 157-35, and won the first regional title of his career in 2014 at age 79 in his final season at Logansport.

At Blackford, the turnaround has been much quicker and with the Bruins dropping a class to 2A a deep tournament run could be in the near future. 

Uggen said Hoover’s hiring seems to have rejuvenated the entire county.

“The hiring was one of the best I have ever made. Obviously, it resulted in a complete turnaround in the boys basketball program and the way our community has responded has been borderline unreal,” Uggen said.  “It basically gave our community something to really be proud of and they have rallied around the boys. Coming from where the team was two years ago, prior to his arrival, to now is almost movie-worthy. It’s changed our community.”

Hoover has won 433 games over 36 seasons with stops at 10 different high schools. He’s won five sectional titles and a regional title. He was a college assistant coach for years at Indiana State and St. Joseph’s College as well. Hoover helped get the high school summer basketball camps started in Indiana, and his D-One Basketball Camp at Fort Wayne’s Spiece Fieldhouse is the largest in the Midwest.

Uggen said the ripple effect of what Hoover has done with the basketball program has reached other programs in the school. 

“I think it has fired up the kids and, more so, the fan base. When kids see nearly 4,000 fans cheering them on, I think a lot of kids want that. Not all get it, but it has to be a lure. And it shows that if you work hard and have enough talent, good things will happen. And the more fans show up. It’s cyclical. I just hope our fans try to support all our kids despite the results because they are all doing their best to represent BHS and our community. Who can’t appreciate that?”

Hoover is the first ‘active’ coach at Blackford High School to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. 

“Coach Hoover has quite the resume so to be recognized is certainly a huge accomplishment for any coach. His resume speaks for itself and his stop at BHS is icing on the cake for him,” Uggen said. “I think he is more proud of what he has done here in helping turn around a community than anything he has accomplished, maybe even becoming a Hall of Famer. Our community has certainly embraced him and his family and that has to feel good. Being a Hall of Famer is putting the cherry on top of a great career.”

Hoover has spent a lifetime in education, teaching government at Kankakee Valley, and is also a retired colonel with 32 years of combined military service.

Hoover credited Randy Wittman, Dave Schellhase, Carl McNulty and a few others for “twisting his arm” and getting him to apply for the Hall induction.  

 “Everyone in Indiana who plays or coaches basketball wants to get into the Hall of Fame. Of course for me it has been a long wait,” he said, adding as only a true Hoosier would: “I cannot understand why any self-respecting, red blooded Hoosier would go to Florida in the winter when they can stay in Indiana and watch Indiana high school basketball.”