Great motivators: Coaches were inspiration on, off court

Austin High School boys basketball head coach Dale Crafton, center, goes over the 1976-77 team's roster with assistant coaches Johnny Mac Brown, right, and Dan Deaton. Tribune file photo by Jim Plump
Austin High School boys basketball head coach Dale Crafton, center, goes over the 1976-77 team’s roster with assistant coaches Johnny Mac Brown, right, and Dan Deaton. Tribune file photo by Jim Plump

This is a picture of three great coaches and people … and here’s the story.

This was the Austin High School boys basketball coaching staff at the start of my senior year in 1977. I love those guys. All three are very special to me.

In the center is varsity coach Dale Crafton, the man who impacted my life positively at an early age when things were tough for me. Coach Crafton had a great basketball mind and was very intense.

In the two years I played for coach Crafton, we did a lot of winning. In 1976 and 1977, we won the first two basketball conference championships (Southern Athletic Conference) in school history, won a holiday tourney and were sectional runner-up at Seymour in 1976. The 1976 team averaged 74.6 points per game, which is still third highest in Austin basketball history, and the 1977 team averaged 73.1 points per game, which is still seventh all-time.

Coach Crafton is still an important part of my life. Coach had a way of motivating you into believing you could do what you needed to do to win.

On the right is Johnny Mac Brown. John had an incredible junior varsity record when he was at Austin. The guys who played for him will tell you he knew basketball as well as anyone.

When John left Austin, he became the head coach at Medora High School, where he coached for a few years and did a great job there. In fact, the last time Medora had a winning season was in 1981, and the head coach was Johnny Mac Brown. I don’t see coach Brown much these days, but when I do, it’s like a family reunion.

The other man pictured is Dan Deaton, who was an assistant coach that year while coaching the freshman team. Big Dan is truly an Austin legend. Back then, Dan was our motivator and the guy who soothed things over when coach Crafton ripped us.

One time, I got in early foul trouble in a game. As I headed to the bench, coach Crafton ripped me good, telling me, “I’m not going to play you anymore because I can’t stand watching you make all those stupid fouls.”

When I sat down on the bench, Big Dan said to me, “Don’t worry. He’ll put you back in, but boy, those sure were stupid fouls, so he might not never play you again.”

Over 3½ decades of coaching, no one ever made basketball more fun for players than Big Dan.

This is a special picture of three special people during a special time.

Mike Barrett is a local resident with an interest in history. His Backroads Indiana columns regularly appear in The Tribune. Send comments to zspicer@tribtown.com.