Basketball: Joe Otis, Valpo boys coach for four years, to take over as Valpo girls coach
By Mike Hutton email@example.com/@MikeHuttonPT April 16, 2013 6:02PM
Updated: May 18, 2013 6:52AM
Joe Otis has always rolled to the rhythm of his own tune in his own head.
Considered in that context, the only people who should be surprised that Otis, the boys basketball coach at Valparaiso High School, was named the girls coach at Valparaiso High School, are the ones who don’t now him. Otis was named the girls coach Tuesday night at a school board meeting.
Otis took over as boys coach in the 2009-2010 season after Chris Benedict left. It was a job he coveted, having been passed over four years earlier when Benedict was hired. Otis had retired abruptly from coaching at LaPorte in the middle of the 2002 season, saying he was unhappy with the new class system and tired of the extreme commitment that coaches had to make.
Otis looks at the challenge of rebuilding the Vikings’ girls program, once one of the best in the state, as another in a laundry list of things to get done before he retires again for good from coaching. Jeannette Gray resigned after the end of the season with a four-year record of 28-58.
Otis noted that former Valparaiso boys coach Dale Cicioria followed the same path. Cicioria coached the boys team for two seasons, taking the Vikings to semistate in 1975-76. He resigned after the season to coach the girls. He held that job for 10 years, taking the team to the state title one year.
Another Valparaiso girls coach, Greg Kirby, also was a boys coach at Portage, before he moved over to take the Vikings girls job. The girls have won 20 sectionals, 11 regionals and five semistates. The program, though, has gone through three coaches since Kirby resigned in 2006. Otis held jobs as the assistant girls coach at LaPorte under Skeeter Heath for five years before he moved over to coach seventh-grade girls basketball there for one season. Otis said he already knows most of the girls on the team from his earlier days as a girls coach.
“I’m excited about this,” he said. “We have a storied tradition.”
Otis said he approached the administration about taking on the job before he left for Florida for spring break. It didn’t take him long to make up his mind. He came back ready to make the move. He said that he didn’t feel any pressure to leave.
When asked if there was pressure from parents, he said: “No. I’ve never had many problems with parents.”
He also noted that his junior varsity team was 16-4 and that he left the program in good shape. Otis finished 56-27 in four years as the boys coach. His teams won one sectional and the Vikings lost in overtime this past season to Merrillville, the Michigan City Regional champion.
Look for Valparaiso to hire one of Otis’ assistants — Ben Lieske, Matt Thomas or Brent Kimmel — for the vacancy.
Otis, 61, was hired to essentially groom one of them for the job. All, like Otis, graduated from Valparaiso High School. Otis said that he can’t “control who gets the job” but he wants one of his assistants to have it.