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Basketball: Matt Thomas named new Valpo boys coach; Candy Wilson leaves Boone for Valpo JV position

Updated: June 18, 2013 7:29AM



Matt Thomas had a choice a few years ago.

Thomas, an English teacher and a bit of a Renaissance man, was running marathons, coaching cross country, working on his Masters degree and coaching eighth grade basketball.

“I was spread a little thin,” he said.

He also, by his admission, wasn’t much of a coach. His teams were successful because he had better players.

Thomas had a heart-to-heart with himself and he decided to throw himself completely into studying the game.

If he got better at the coaching stuff, he was going to plow forward. If he didn’t, he was going to stick to cross country.

Thomas went crazy with the DVDs, coaching clinics, the search for basketball knowledge and he fell in love with coaching in ways he could hardly imagine. He liked the idea that basketball was like chess and you really could out strategize opponents.

“I just became a basketball nerd,” he said.

On Wednesday, the basketball nerd was appointed the new coach at Valparaiso High School. Thomas, who has been coaching in the Valparaiso system for 16 years, was expected to get the job. He beat out two other VHS assistants — Ben Lieske and Brent Kimmel — for the job. Lieske will move over and coach the JV team next year. Thomas had a 106-14 record as JV coach the last six years.

It’s pretty heady stuff for a kid who was a backup point guard at VHS to a kid named Bryce Drew.

“It is a little surreal when I look at the coaches that were here,” he said. “That’s when it starts to hit me.”

Thomas said he won’t change much defensively — the Vikings were solid on that end of the floor. He does plan on calling fewer plays offensively.

“We won’t run as many sets,” he said. “I think my strengths are teaching kids rather than running plays for them. We’ll let them make decisions.”

The Thomas hiring wasn’t the only news at the school board.

Candy Wilson, the head coach at Boone Grove for 16 years, was hired as the junior varsity girls coach. Joe Otis, the new girls coach, also managed to snag another big name by hiring Jack Gabor as his top assistant. Gabor has coached at Griffith, Bishop Noll, Huntington North and Valparaiso University.

Wilson said making the move to VHS wasn’t easy for her.

“Joe Otis is a great guy — that’s truly why I considered the move,” she said. “It’s really something I had to think about. Leaving Boone Grove was difficult because it was like family there.”

— Steve T. Gorches contributed



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