Altstadt led Southridge to first sectional title

BY COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

Southridge can lay claim to 13 boys sectional championships in its history. The Raiders had a habit of tournament excellence from the late 1970s and for much of the 1980s. They went to the Final Four twice in 1985 and 1986, and most recently snipped the sectional nets in 2018 for the baker’s dozen.

Jerry Altstadt, 1976

The Raiders’ most recent sectional championship came 42 years after their first championship in program history. The coach of the 1976 squad was Jerry Altstadt, who veered between the high school and collegiate coaching levels in his career. Altstadt was no stranger to high school tournament success. He went to the Final Four in 1964 with Evansville Rex Mundi. While there, he was the high school basketball coach of future Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese.

“He was one of the most fantastic kids that I had the opportunity to coach, and what a great kid to coach,” Altstadt said of Griese. “He came along with some other great kids, and it was just an era that probably I can never, ever experience again.”

Altstadt went 130-43 in nine years at the helm of the Monarchs. He spent four seasons as the coach of the University of Southern Indiana, where he compiled a 30-59 record. The 1973-74 campaign was his last, and when the Screaming Eagles went 12-14.

He took over the Southridge program in 1974, but it wasn’t his first venture into Dubois County. Altstadt previous manned the Barons of St. Benedict College in Ferdinand before coaching at USI.

“The excitement of the game in Dubois County was enticing, and the people came out to watch the kids play, and there was a lot of excitement between schools,” he said. “It made it an ideal place to coach.”

Southridge went 10-10 the previous season. The Raiders went into the 1974-75 season with plenty of youth, and not a lot of experience, but also with good size and potential. Altstadt believed a great offense would beat any defense. The plan was to put a lot of points on the board, and see if the opposition could match it.

Altstadt emphasized good, tough rebounding and getting the first pass out. He wanted a fast break game that generated a two-on-one or a three-on-two advantage. Altstadt used a 1-3-1 zone defense, and played a matchup off of it. He said the 1-3-1 helped them get the ball out and the fast break rolling. The Raiders went 13-8 in his first year with the team, losing to Forest Park, 81-72, in the sectional semifinal. 

He told The Herald, according to the Nov. 28, 1975 edition, “We’re cautiously optimistic,” heading into the 1975-76 season. The Raiders were confident and enthusiastic about what they could accomplish that year, with most of the team coming back.

They went 10-10 in the regular season, encountering many close affairs. Their longest winning streak was three games, and lost four in a row at one point. The Raiders also had a stretch of losing six of eight. Southridge played six games that went into overtime, and two that went into double overtime.

The Raiders were 2-4 in overtime games, but they also had balance that year. Dave Schipp and Joe Mundy, both seniors, averaged 12.3 and 12.2 points per game, respectively, that season. Junior Russ Neuman was the team’s leading scorer with an average of 13.6 points.

“If they just waited for their opportunity to score instead of try to force things — we didn’t like to see anybody force shots,” Altstadt said. “We wanted to make sure they had good shots. They did pretty well. I went along with that philosophy, and I think that’s the reason we had multiple players averaging double figures.”

Southridge had a bye into that year’s semifinals, something Altstadt never thought about. Sometimes it benefits a team, and sometimes it doesn’t, but he always believed in getting out there and playing.

If teams get rusty after a bye, though, the Raiders weren’t one of them. Their 72-55 win against Dubois put them in the sectional championship that year against reigning runner-up Forest Park, who was also seeking its first championship that year.

The Rangers winning would make them the first team from Ferdinand to win a sectional, while the Raiders would give the hometown Huntingburg fans its first title since the Hunters won it in 1970, also after going 10-10 in the regular season.

Forest Park made it close. Southridge clung to a 42-39 lead at one point. The Raiders, however, were money at the free throw line in the fourth quarter, going 9 for 9 from the charity stripe. Their run to end the game, 57-45, meant they were sectional champions for the first time ever, doing so on their home floor.

“Memorial Gym in Huntingburg is a fantastic place to play,” Altstadt said. “It’s probably the nicest place that I’ve coached in to play high school basketball, other than maybe Roberts Stadium in Evansville, but it was fantastic, and it’s still a fantastic place to play.”

Southridge held a 46-45 lead after three quarters against Bedford North Lawrence for the right to advance to regional championship. The Raiders led by six with three minutes to go, but Southridge managed 18 turnovers that game. The Stars rallied for a 62-60 win, with Jeff Root having the game-winning shot, and went on to best host Washington that night for the regional championship.

Altstadt could not remember the reason Southridge had that many turnovers, but he absolutely thought the Raiders were capable of winning the regional championship. He thought they were just as strong as the other teams were, and that they could play with any team in the regional. Southridge’s first regional championship did not come, however, until 1985.

The Raiders built off of that first sectional championship season with a 16-4 regular-season record. Altstadt said that team thought that would be their best year, but much of the team became sick with the flu around sectional time. The Raiders still held tight, losing to Jasper, 63-60, in the semifinal. Altstadt credited his players for having guts and giving it everything they had. He also lauded his senior-heavy group that he knew could play.

The 1976-77 season was Altstadt’s last as coach of the Raiders. He left for Vincennes University, joking to The Herald that he did not get fired. Assistant coach Gary Duncan ascended to the head coaching job at Southridge.  Altstadt became the director of the Vincennes University Jasper Center, and was Vincennes University Jasper’s dean, and he retired after working for the university.

Today, Altstadt, 85, lives in Perry County, reflecting on his life as one that has had 20-year segments. He spent the first 20 studying, working hard and preparing for his life. Altstadt’s next 20 years consisted of coaching and also teaching at high schools. His time as dean was another 20 years, and now he spends life as a tree farmer.

“I sit on my porch and watch the trees grow and listen to the birds,” he said.

He cannot find a better place in the world than in Southern Indiana. Altstadt has had his farm for roughly 25 years. He’s been married for more than 60 years, is a father of six and grandfather of 19. All six of his children — Tim, Dale, Larry, Steve, Don and Jan — have made something of themselves in life with the positions they have held.

“They’re all contributing to my Social Security,” Jerry said.

Jerry has found that the positives have outweighed the negatives in his life, and has made a lot of friends in Dubois County in his lifetime.

“Our problem is that we’ve reached an age where so many of our friends have died,” he said. “When you get to this point, you think, ‘Well, what did we do over our lifetime? Are we proud of what we have done, or could we have done a lot better?’ Well, we probably could have done a lot better, but we’re still pretty proud of what we’ve done.”




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