Boys basketball: Eric Braden will finally be varsity head coach at Morgan
By Tom Wyatt Post-Tribune correspondent November 18, 2012 7:22PM
Coach Eric Braden gets his players attention during practice at Morgan Twp. Wednesday afternoon.. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 20, 2012 6:24AM
Eric Braden did what any husband who doesn’t want to be relegated to the living room couch would do before deciding to take the head boys basketball coaching job at Morgan Township — he sat down and talked with his wife.
But the answer was clear. Braden already spent much of his time in the gym coaching or on the road watching his kids play or in front of the television watching the game in his spare time. So adding one more element, that being the responsibility and the administrative duties that go along with being the top guy, wasn’t all that much more to ask.
So, yes, Braden is your new boys basketball coach at Morgan.
But Braden isn’t your traditional first-year coach. Far from it.
He’s 44 years old. He’s been teaching for 17 years in the Morgan school system. And he’s been coaching for all of those 17 years, mostly at the lower levels.
For the last couple years, he has been the Cherokees’ junior varsity coach under Matt Bush, who was in his second stint as the Morgan coach before stepping down after last season. Bush coached a total of 22 seasons at Morgan, winning five sectional titles and a regional.
Instead of turning to some bright-eyed young coach fresh out of college, Morgan’s administrators chose loyalty. In other words, they chose Braden.
“I never went into coaching wanting to be a head coach anywhere,” said Braden, who has also coached boys volleyball and track at Morgan. “It was one of those things that just came up. If you had asked me four years about coaching varsity, I would have never thought of it. But after working with Mr. Bush for so many years, I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to try it out.”
Braden is a Porter County guy. He grew up in the area and attended Washington Township High School, where he played basketball.
“I wasn’t much to speak of, but I did play,” Braden said.
He went on to Indiana University and came back home and took a job working in the mills. After a couple years of that, he turned his focus to teaching and took a position at Morgan Township Elementary.
He didn’t get into teaching to be a coach. He got into teaching to teach, he said.
“When I was working in the mill, I was just worried about getting a teaching job,” Braden said. “Coaching never entered my mind. But I’ve always loved basketball, and once I got into teaching, it just kind of went from there.”
He’s coached boys basketball at the JV, freshman and middle school levels. He even had a short stint coaching girls elementary basketball.
Coaching the varsity boys is a far cry from coaching elementary girls, but it’s still basketball. And it’s basketball in a close-knit community such as Morgan’s.
“I just like the small-school atmosphere,” Braden said. “You get the small schools together, and it’s a pure form of basketball, especially at our school. We don’t make cuts. You get enough kids out, and that’s who we’ve got.
“It’s nice to see kids develop through the years. I can look at the fifth-grade level and know who’s going to play. That’s just how it is.”
Braden and his wife have four kids, all boys, including the oldest, Chase, who is a sophomore on the team and started last season on varsity for the Cherokees.
“One more and we’ve got a full team,” Braden said.
He’s joking. Because there’s a newborn at home, and life can get hectic, especially with the other children getting involved in basketball. Tack on the administrative duties that go along with the new job for Braden, and it’s non-stop go.
“My wife’s been very supportive,” Braden said. “There’s a lot of stuff that goes along with it that I never really thought about. I never knew how much work was actually involved in being a head coach. But I’ve got (Kevin) Krieger, the girls varsity coach, there to help me out. And Mr. Bush is still in the building, and his door is always open.”
But now it’s time for the games. Morgan opens at Knox on Saturday, Braden’s first — after so many years leading up to this — calling the shots at the main event.
“There are some nerves,” Braden admitted. “We’ll see how that goes. I’ve definitely got some big shoes to fill. If I can do half the job that Mr. Bush did over the years, I’d be satisfied.”