Kevin Hensley said there isn’t any place he would rather be during the winter than in the gymnasium at Crothersville High School preparing his girls’ basketball team for their next game.

Hensley graduated from CHS in 1980, and played basketball for Coach Jerry Owens.

Hensley then played basketball for one year at Ivy Tech (Columbus).

Dan Wright was a middle school coach at Crothersville when Kevin’s oldest daughter, Kylie, was in sixth grade.

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“Dan had a really large number of kids and when Kylie came into sixth grade and he came to me and said he needed another coach and asked me if I had ever thought about coaching,” Hensley said.

“I was like ‘not really’ because I was still playing in the Seymour leagues at that time to stay in shape. I told him I would help him, and I started in 2004. When I got into coaching I was like, ‘how do I take what I know and teach it to kids because it is a whole different way of thinking?’ ”It’s a whole different atmosphere with the girls than the guys. It took a while to get comfortable, but when I did I kind of fell in love with it.”

Hensley coached sixth grade for one year and the next year he moved up to eighth grade.

“That was when Dan started having health issues and he stepped out and Andy (Nehrt) put in for the high school job,” Hensley said. “I told Andy I didn’t want to miss (Kylie) playing and I was going to give up coaching and be able to watch her and Andy said ‘no, you’re going to come up here and help me.’ So that is how all that transpired. I helped Andy for three years.”

Hensley became head coach when Kylie was a senior, for the 2009-10 season. He is in his ninth year as head coach and has a record of 75-115. He guided the Tigers to their first sectional title in school history last season and is off to a 4-2 start this season.

Hensley said the sectional title meant a lot to him, and when the sectional champions banner was unveiled in the gym prior to their first home game against Southwestern (Hanover) on Oct. 31 it was a special feeling.

“The girls are still kind of reveling in that atmosphere, and Katrina (Christian) is at college (Eastern Illinois University) now and she still texts me here and there when she’s got time,” Hensley said. “All the girls are just a text away and they stay in contact.”

He said he enjoys coaching in the CHS gym.

“I think this gym was built in my moms’ junior or senior year (1957),” Hensley said. “There is a lot of tradition in this gym with Fran Schill and guys like that that started out playing here.”

Hensley remembers talking to Wright when he was coaching the middle school girls.

“Dan taught me a lot with the girls,” Hensley said. “He constantly stressed that you have to start them so young to be able to have anything up here (varsity), and he said your whole high school team is going to be based on what you did at the lower level.

“That’s what we did and now we’ve got an abundance of junior high girls.”

Winning the sectional has increased interest in the elementary and middle school programs.

“I think we’ve got eight eighth-graders which will be great for our JV squad next year because we’re not losing hardly anyone from the varsity this year,” Hensley said. “Those eighth-graders will pretty much be our whole JV squad next year. There are a couple of them that could push for varsity spots. It’s going to be fun in the next few years.”

Hensley said he has changed his coaching style from year-to-year to try and utilize the teams’ strengths.

He said the level of play, even among class 1A teams, has improved tremendously since he began coaching.

Kevin’s youngest, daughter, Piper, is a junior on this year’s varsity.

He said it has been a joy coaching his daughters.

“There is a separation between father and coach,” Hensley said. “(Piper) knows that everything I do on the court is coach, and at home it’s strictly dad because then I’m talking to her about what she needs to do to help herself because I’m not going to pinpoint in a coaching situation because it’s a team.”

Hensley has loved the sport his entire life.

“I love being around basketball,” Hensley said. “I’ve always loved the game, ever since the old ABA (American Basketball Association) with the Kentucky Colonels and Indiana Pacers. They were big rivals and I loved that.

“My family has always been big (Kentucky) Wildcats fans. We always liked the Colonels just because they had a couple Wildcats on the team.”

Hensley said when he was 12 he attended a Colonels-Pacers game and got to meet Louie Dampier, a Southport High School product.

Kevin and his family attended Big Blue Wildness last year, and had tickets right in front of where Dampier was sitting, and was able to visit with the former Wildcat.

“It was so cool to be able to run into him like that,” Hensley said. “His son took a picture of us. He was kind of a childhood hero to me as far as basketball.

“So a guy like him kind of inspired me, also to watch him go from Indiana to bigger things.”

Hensley said his practices normally last two hours.

“I learned from Hubie Brown that if you break your practices down in segments, like you start out with your exercises in warmups, and then you go to shooting drills, and then to defensive drills, then running the offense, then presses and press breaks and all that, then special plays like out-of-bound plays and things like that, he said your practices will run smoother and will seem like they go by real quick, and it does.”

Hensley said you have to be careful how you coach some players.

“Every girl is different and I’ve found that there are certain girls that can take a little bit of negativity when you get on them and others can’t take it at all,” he said. “Chris (Mains) and Todd (Adair) and me, we all care for the girls like a daughter, but at the same time we’ve got to be tough on them in order for us to get better.”

The Tigers, a class 1A program, played against Class 2A and 3A teams their first five games this season, facing Southwestern, Austin, Henryville, Indianapolis Manual and Clarksville.

Tonight the Tigers will open their Southern Athletic Conference schedule at home against Borden.

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Arv Koontz is a sports correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.