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Friday, May 6, 2016

The stories we can tell

Friday, February 18, 2011

This job definitely has its rough moments. Ask Jamie some time how her skin crawls every time she covers yet another child molester. Or ponder some time how it feels when having to cover a story involving a dead or critically injured kid.

It just isn't fun or uplifting at times.

But it is the life we've chosen, and there are things that get you through. You get to go a lot of places for free and get access that the general public doesn't always get. You have the chance to meet plenty of interesting and important people.

Sometimes, though, you have a chance to get to know people without ever knowing them at all.

That was my joy last week in writing a story about Coach Jim Huter.

I never met Coach, at least not that I know. He was long out of the coaching and athletic director game when I got here in 2007.

What he left, though, was a community full of acolytes and admirers, and I've talked to a number of them -- both for the story and in passing -- in recent weeks. I gathered enough to write a 1,100-word story, but there was so much more. I'd like to recount a few more of those here.

* When Coach Huter took over the Greencastle men's hoops program in 1974, he was already quite accomplished, with two Kentucky state titles and another runner-up. As an accomplished coach, he had worked with Bob Knight at some of his basketball camps.

The story -- and I don't have official confirmation on this one -- is that Huter called Knight and told him he might be headed north to the same area. Knight found out it was at Greencastle and asked when he was interviewing.

On the morning of the interview, Knight apparently called GHS and talked to whoever was conducting the interview. The General didn't give a traditional recommendation, instead he just said something along these lines: "This is Bob Knight. Can you tell Huter I really need to talk to him?"

And that was it. I suppose the fact that Bob Knight really needs to talk to someone is better than any good word he could put in.

* One of Huter's players at GHS, Shane Huber, recalled his coach's peculiar practice attire.

"It was the first time in my life that I'd ever been introduced to early morning practices where the coach came in in his sweat pants and a robe and a cigar," Huber said.

* If you were one of Coach's kids, that's how you were known. Daughter Jill McCammack told me of how the tables were turned on her dad after he'd retired.

"For years and years, for all of us kids it was like, you must be one of Mr. Huter's daughters," McCammack said. "I was teaching at South Putnam as well and he was retired, but subbing. One of my kids who I'd had at Fillmore was up at the high school and was in a class that Dad subbed for. The kids remembered seeing him in my room occasionally, and they all said, 'Aren't you Mrs. McCammack's father?' That was the twist for him. It was hard for him to go, 'I guess I am.'"

* One of my personal favorites was a story from the late '80s recounted by Kieth Puckett and Mark Wildman of Coach Huter stepping in during his days as South Putnam athletic director.

Through a scheduling oversight, the Eagles' baseball coach got married on the same day as the sectional final. Low and behold, the Eagles made it to the game. Of course, the coach couldn't miss his wedding, not even for the sectional final.

So, Coach Huter stepped in for a game ... and South Putnam won the sectional. I suppose it was meant to be. According to his daughter, the accomplished basketball coach -- much the legendary John Wooden -- had always considered baseball his best sport.

I know there are more stories, and I suppose they could fill a book. The point is, I never knew this man, but through the memories of an entire community, I feel like I know him now.

And that's been one of my main joys in this job -- the chance to learn about people I never had the chance to know personally. I've heard plenty of good stories about Huter, Mike Rokicki and, most importantly for me, my wife's grandfather Norman Evens. And that only names a few.

I've come to consider Putnam County my home, and it's nice to learn about the people who've shaped that home.

Jared Jernagan is the assistant editor of the Banner Graphic. He can be reached at jjernagan@bannergraphic.com.