Anderson only Otwell coach to win sectionalApril 21, 2020
BY COREY STOLZENBACH
Some schools have a rich history of sectional championships, but then there are others, some who were one-and-done in their time as a program. Such was the case with Otwell, which had its lone tournament glory in the 1968-69 season before joining Petersburg and Winslow to consolidate into Pike Central in 1974.
The man who led the Millers to the 1969 Washington sectional title was Howard “Andy” Anderson, who only ever wanted to be a teacher and a coach. He grew up in Cuzco, and graduated from Dubois in 1951.
Anderson broke out as a guard for the Jeeps as a senior in the 1951 sectional tournament. He scored 38 points and was named to the all-sectional team. Anderson told of Butler University’s Tony Hinkle taking a chance on him out of high school with the intent for him to play baseball and basketball for the Bulldogs. Hinkle coached football, as well as basketball and baseball, simultaneously at that time.
“I was so poor, I still had to work,” Anderson said. “[Hinkle] wanted me to play football and run out of the backfield for him.”
He never played football in his life, and transferred to then-Oakland City College, playing basketball and graduating in 1955. Anderson worked different jobs while he was in college, and began coaching in Francisco. He volunteered for the military, serving in the Army, and was overseas in Germany.
Anderson did some coaching at his alma mater, and joined the Otwell coaching staff in 1960, getting the head job in 1963. The Millers went 15-6 in the 1967-68 season, and looked to build off of that come November 1968. They graduated seven varsity players, but also returned six from the previous year. Ten of their 12 players heading into the season were upperclassmen.
One of their most prominent players that year was Steve Barrett, who went on to play both baseball and basketball at Murray State University.
“He could handle the ball,” Anderson said of Barrett. “He could see the floor. He was strong. He had a quick first step. He just flat beat you.”
Barrett and the Millers proved tough to knock off in the regular season that year. They went 17-3, including a perfect 7-0 in the Patoka Valley Conference for their first conference championship. Two of their three losses came by two points, both by 69-67 scores. Their lone decisive defeat came at the hands of Evansville Rex Mundi, 81-54, in the Rex Mundi Tournament that year.
“They were a good basketball team, and they were strong and they were bigger than we were that year,” Anderson said.
Anderson had a heart-to-heart talk with his players not long after the loss. He told them that was why he wanted them to play in the tournament, because it would be good experience for them. The Millers went 7-1 the rest of the way in the regular season.
“I think that tournament really made them,” he said.
Otwell opened the 1969 Washington sectional with an 82-66 win against the host Hatchets in the first game. The Millers found themselves in a tight game in the semifinal against Barr-Reeve before pulling away, 54-39, in the fourth quarter.
It all came down to the sectional championship March 1 against North Daviess. The Millers spent most of the game playing from behind. Junior Rick Weisman scored 31 points, but fouled out. This didn’t doom Otwell, though. Barrett and senior Steve Meadors took charge down the stretch.
Barrett had a go-ahead bucket to give the Millers the lead against the Cougars for the first time in the game with 1:39 to play. He nailed some late free throw shooting to give the sectional crown to the Millers. Barrett finished with 18 points, and Meadors had 22.
Anderson reminded his players not to celebrate too long. They still had a regional tournament to play the following week.
“The party went all night, I think, so I’m told,” Anderson said. “I went home and went to bed.”
He said, though, that the team didn’t have a decent practice all week. Vincennes stayed undefeated with an 87-70 victory, and they went to the Final Four that year. The 1969-70 season was Anderson’s last as the team’s head coach. He became principal, and Fred O’Brien replaced him. But the Millers never could replicate what they did in the 1968-69 season.
It wouldn’t be his last coaching gig, though. He took the reins as the coach of the Chargers when the schools consolidated — a move he supported.
“I did because it was going to be for the betterment of every kid in Pike County as far getting an education,” he said. “Everybody’s building was depleted. They were shot.”
Today, Anderson, 86, has been retired since 1999. He currently does farming and gardening. Weisman, one of his former players, helps him out. The former coach wants to keep going and not slow down.
“God’s blessed me,” Anderson said. “As long as I can, I’m going to keep saying my prayers morning, noon and night. I’m going to stay active.”
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