For The Tribune
While Brian Stuckwisch was growing up in rural Jackson County, and attending St. John’s Lutheran Sauers, there was only one sport for him to play at the school: basketball.
The limited selection wasn’t a problem for Stuckwisch.
“I’ve always loved basketball ever since I grew up,” he said. “When I was out at Sauers growing up there really wasn’t any other sport. I played basketball year-around at Sauers. My dad was coach at Sauers, and I’ve seen pictures of me just barely old enough to walk out there with the teams practicing or running around in the gym.”
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“I’ve always liked basketball and would rather do that than anything else. I’ve just always been around the gym.”
Stuckwisch is in his third year of coaching the Trinity Lutheran varsity boys basketball team.
He graduated from Seymour High School in 1982.
He played basketball his freshman and sophomore years, then began coaching at St. John’s his junior year at Seymour High School. He coached with Carey Lambring and Gregg Stuckwisch, and they won Lutheran Invitational Tournament titles in 1984 and 1988.
Brian got married in 1992 and took a few years off from coaching before returning to St. John’s.
He said in 1999 he received a call from Dave Benter, Brownstown Central’s boys coach, and was offered the sixth-grade coaching position at Brownstown Central Middle School — he then coached there for three years.
Stuckwisch was Benter’s coach at Sauers for three years.
Stuckwisch returned to St. John’s and, in 2007, along with Susan Beavers coached the St. John’s eighth-grade girls in the National Lutheran Tournament at Valparaiso.
In 2010 he and Craig Klinge coached the St. John’s boys in the national tournament, where they placed third. They lost to a team from Minnesota that won the tournament.
He began coaching at Trinity Lutheran in 2010-11, finishing with a record of 20-5. The Cougars won a sectional at Orleans and advanced to the championship game of the Loogootee Regional before losing to North Daviess. Stuckwisch’s assistant coaches at Trinity were Troy Boshears and Tim Pinnow.
“(Winning the sectional) was a big accomplishment,” Stuckwisch said. “That was the first time Trinity had won a sectional game period, let alone win a sectional.”
Brian said when he was hired, Jon Sprengel was the Cougars’ varsity coach. However, Sprengel had just accepted the principal’s position at Lutheran Central School in Brownstown.
“The position was open, and they were looking for a teacher-coach-athletic director, and Aaron (Rudzinski) had not been selected (yet),” Stuckwisch said. “They let me go ahead and work with the team that summer, and eventually asked me to coach that team.
“It was just helping them out until they got a teacher, athletic director and coach.”
Rudzinski and Stuckwisch switched coaching positions the following season.
Stuckwisch coached junior varsity for five years and helped the Cougars win the 2014 sectional at Orleans. Brian’s oldest son, Matthew, played on the 2010-11 team, and his youngest son, Luke, was on the 2013-14 team.
“A lot of people think it’s really hard to coach your kids,” Stuckwisch said. “It is hard, but you’ve got to separate parent and coach out. When you win something like that it’s really meaningful and it’s something you’ll remember for the rest of your life, you and your kids both.”
He also oversees the summer camps, open gym in the summer and youth basketball leagues.
“I’ve learned from all the coaches through the years: either being the head coach or an assistant coach,” Stuckwisch said. “When I first got the job here at Trinity in 2010 I got a lot of help from Dave Benter and Karla Rieckers at Brownstown. Craig Klinge and Carey Lambring helped a lot, and several other people.”
Stuckwisch said the style of play has changed over the years.
“It used to be you were more fundamentally sound and you slowed the game down and kept a low score,” he said. “Now, with the 3-point line, it’s a high-scoring game, it’s a fast-paced game.
“You go up and down the floor, you start pressing. I know (former UCLA Coach) John Wooden started pressing several years ago. That caught on and everybody started pressing, and that speeded the game up.”
Stuckwisch said he has changed his coaching style to best utilize his teams’ strengths.
“You have to adjust to whatever personnel you have,” he said. “If you’ve got kids that are very quick and fast, you want to run a fast pace, and if you’ve got a bigger lineup with taller guys, you want to feed it into the post and get the high percentage shot.
“You just adapt to whatever personnel there is. You try to get your team prepared for the best situation to win every night.”
Different coaching styles are required for different age groups.
“Your younger kids, freshmen and junior varsity, you’re trying to develop them up for varsity,” Stuckwisch said. “You’re still trying to get their technique better, their shooting form better, their fundamentals better, and you’re trying to prepare them for the varsity games.
“At the varsity level there is more strategy, more scouting the other team. There’s more strategic involved with how your players can take the weaknesses from the other team.”
Stuckwisch said Trinity Lutheran reminds him a lot about St. John’s.
“There are a lot of similarities between St. John’s and Trinity,” Stuckwisch said. “It’s a (Class) A school, it’s a smaller school. You’re always playing bigger schools. St. John’s is a small school between 60 and 80 (students), so you were always playing younger kids against older kids, and you always have that family relationship. That’s kind of the way it is here, too. You get to know everybody really well.
“The feeder schools all feed into this so you have a lot of the kids that you played at Sauers, the different coaches, and the different schools now you can kind of combine some of those kids that come to Trinity and put them to together.”
Private elementary schools that feed into Trinity Lutheran include St. John’s, Immanuel, Lutheran Central, St. Peters, White Creek, St. Ambrose, St. Mary’s and St. Bartholomew.
“There are a lot of feeder schools that are coming in, and we’re getting a lot of kids from the area coming here,” Stuckwisch said. “You can put them all together on one team. It’s a unique situation.”
He said the local Lutheran elementary schools look forward to the LIT.
“That’s the biggest event of the year,” Stuckwisch said. “You go to the tournament at the end of the year and it’s kind of like your playoff or your ‘March Madness’ you might say, for the grade school teams.”
He said he enjoyed the experience of coaching in the national tournament at Valparaiso.
“Here in Jackson County, you’re playing the same schedule all the time,” Stuckwisch said. “When you go up to the nationals in Valparaiso you get to see teams from different states and different areas. You meet different coaches and different players.
“They’re usually really large schools. When we go up there they can’t believe how small our school is to go up there and compete on a national level.”
Stuckwisch looks forward to the future.
“I enjoy it, and as long as I can do it and the kids want to work hard for me and play, I’m willing to put the time in and make them a better player,” he said.
“It builds lasting relationships not only do these kids just have in high school or when you quit coaching them, you see them out there in the county or the area and they’re growing up and having their own families you can relate to them. You meet them on the street and it’s a relationship that will last forever.”