Returning to the Hoosier State in September for his 50th class reunion, Doug Peden was visiting with his younger brother, Greg, when an idea was proposed.
Greg thought it would be interesting to go to the schools where their father, William “Bill” Peden, either was a coach, a teacher, an administrator or a combination of the three.
“It struck a nerve, and I said, ‘Boy, that sounds like a good idea,’” said Doug, who now lives in Arvada, Colorado, a suburb of Denver.
They realized it might be hit or miss whether anyone would be there that they knew or that knew their father.
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The brothers still thought it would be a good time.
Greg, who lives in Marion, saw it as a good opportunity to spend time with his brother, which he doesn’t get to do too often because of the 1,172 miles that separate them.
From 1949 to 1978, William spent time at schools in Redkey, Seymour, Bloomfield, Crothersville, Nappanee, Wabash, Greenfield, Brazil and Marion. He was a coach from 1949 to 1965 and then got back into it for four years in the 1970s.
Greg visited Nappanee with one of his sisters and also went to Wabash, while he and his brother planned to go to the other schools together.
At Crothersville on Jan. 19, the brothers attended a boys basketball game along with Greg’s wife, Cindy. Before the varsity game started, they met Fran Schill and Dewey Turner, both of whom played basketball when William was the coach.
William was at Crothersville from 1952 to 1956, coaching boys basketball all four years and serving as principal the last two years.
Schill played for William all four years in high school, while Turner had him as a coach his freshman and sophomore years.
Both men said William was a good coach, but the players knew they better follow the rules or else they might get a paddling.
“Oh, you learned not to stand next to him,” Schill said, laughing about the times players broke the rules.
“When he was coaching, he was the coach, and when he was principal, I stayed away from him just from some of the stories I heard,” Turner said, smiling.
Turner said William allowed the players to go on dates or spend time with friends, but they had to be home by 10 p.m.
One time, he allowed the players to stay out until 11 p.m. to celebrate Schill’s birthday.
“He didn’t tell me he was going to come around and check on them, and after 11 o’clock, he went to everybody’s house,” Turner said. “My house, too, and I was home, but some of them weren’t.”
The next day at practice, Turner said William asked who stayed out late the night before because he was going to paddle them. A couple of the players finally stepped forward, and then a couple more.
William, however, knew about one player who stayed out late but didn’t step forward.
“So he paddled those guys over in the old gym we had at that time,” Turner said. “The rest of them were in the basement. You could hear him hitting those boys with that paddle.”
While William wasn’t at Crothersville long, he left a legacy. His 56 coaching wins put him second among Tigers coaches, and his 18-4 record in the 1955-56 season still remains the best in school history.
Schill was a senior on that team and said the players had good camaraderie. He said he liked playing for William.
“He was an A1 guy in my book,” Schill said.
Turner, who played varsity that season as a sophomore, agreed.
“Oh, he was a heck of a nice guy,” he said. “He was tough when he had to be, but then normally, a very nice coach. He knew basketball.”
Greg and Doug said it was nice to hear stories from Schill and Turner while visiting Crothersville.
“It’s a good refresher,” said Doug, who attended Crothersville for kindergarten and first grade while his father was principal.
“I knew some names, but then to come and actually have a chance to visit with people, it’s like you get a sense of what was going on,” he said.
Greg said he has a lot of his father’s scrapbooks, memorabilia, pictures and other items at home he wanted to donate to the schools on their trip around the state.
“If I ran across something that I think somebody might be interested in, I got in contact and asked if they would be interested in it, rather than stuff gathering dust in my house or basement or being tossed,” he said.
William, who died Oct. 16, 2014, at 92, was from Jay County in northeastern Indiana along the Ohio border.
His first coaching job was at Redkey in 1949 for a year. He moved to Seymour and was an assistant coach for two years, and then he went to Bloomfield for a year before going to Crothersville.
William continued as a coach and an educator — two of his passions.
“It sure seemed like his path was pretty clear,” Doug said. “It was going to involve coaching basketball, which meant you were going to teach, so that was just kind of part of the whole process.”
Those passions were passed down to his two sons.
Doug and Greg both played basketball, football and baseball in high school. Doug attended two different schools his freshman and sophomore years before settling in at Marion and graduating in 1967, while Greg attended school in Marion from seventh grade until graduating in 1971.
Doug then had a scholarship to play basketball at Colorado State University, and Greg continued his three sports at Knox College.
Doug went on to coach for 10 years before becoming an athletic director. He then spent 20 years as a human resources director and coached at a school district in suburban Colorado Springs that grew from 1,300 to 15,000 students during his tenure.
Greg had coaching stints in Joliet, Illinois, and at Northrup High School in Fort Wayne before returning to Marion to serve as athletic director.
Doug being retired for nine years and Greg for three allowed them to do their recent trip around Indiana, and they got their fill of high school basketball.
Greg appreciated that because when he was an athletic director, he said handling all of the duties associated with that role sometimes prevented him from watching much of the games.
“Now, this allows me to kind of get back to my old roots and watch some basketball and see how coaches are doing,” he said.
Doug said both of them are more into high school basketball than professional or college hoops.
“Where the sport is still pretty pure is at the high school level,” Doug said. “There’s a lot of weeks in Denver I go to six games a week. They play on every night of the week and sometimes twice on Saturday.”
The enthusiasm of the fans at high school basketball games is unmatched, Doug said.
“And it’s community-oriented, which people who don’t go miss out on,” he said.
When they went to Northview High School in Brazil during their trip, Doug said the boys basketball team had only won two games this season, but the stands were full.
“It was a source of pride in that community, which I think sometimes, when you go to the big city and you’re one of 10,000 in a crowd, you may not get that same feel,” he said. “You go to the small towns, and you really can sense a lot of those things. Then all of a sudden, you’re walking out with a smile on your face saying, ‘Boy, this is what it’s all about. This is why you coached, why you taught, why you did those things.’”
Doug said he’s not ready to stop going to basketball games.
“I don’t want to give that up,” he said. “Personally, I want to keep going to games as long as I can.”