Late Southridge coach to be enshrined in Hall of FameDecember 10, 2019
By COREY STOLZENBACH
HUNTINGBURG — There are 10 people affiliated with Southridge who have been inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, and soon, an 11th plaque will adorn the wall of Huntingburg Memorial Gymnasium.
Former Southridge principal and boys coach Ray Roesner is a posthumous inductee into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020. Generations of the Roesner family have impacted the school and the community for decades through the present day. Ray Roesner was an assistant coach when his son, Stan, guided Southridge to its first-ever state championship in girls basketball in 1998. Stan’s son, Brett Roesner, is the current freshmen boys coach for the Raiders. It isn’t just family, though, who can stem influence from the late coach. Jasper girls junior varsity coach Scott Blazey and Southridge girls coach Greg Werner got their start in the coaching profession largely due to Ray Roesner’s help.
Werner played against Roesner before he coached under him. The longtime Southridge girls coach graduated from Northeast Dubois in 1991, and it was during the 1990-91 season that Roesner succeeded Gary Duncan as coach of the Raiders. Werner described himself as a fiesty player, and added that he exchanged words with Roesner as the two both had a competitive edge to them. Roesner’s Raiders ended up besting Werner’s Jeeps, 47-36, for the 1991 sectional championship. Yet, the man who helped end Werner’s high school playing career made him a varsity assistant before taking over the freshmen boys position at Southridge. Werner said the newly minted hall of famer understood he wanted to be a coach, and knew of his passion for the game.
The two stayed in contact after Werner went on to take the head girls job at Washington Catholic. He said he exchanged film with Roesner while he was coaching the Cardinals. Werner remembered needing film on Perry Central during the 2000-01 season after the Cardinals just won a sectional championship. He said he met with Roesner, who gave it to him. Washington Catholic ended up winning the regional championship, 45-37, that year.
“[Roesner was] always willing to help in some way, some how, and he always cared about people,” Werner said.
Roesner helped Blazey get his first coaching job as the fifth-grade boys coach at Maple Park. Blazey also later coached under Roesner on varsity. He credits Roesner for teaching him more about basketball than any other coach did. Blazey said he taught him about staying positive and even-tempered. Blazey said Roesner was firm, but never got out of hand, adding his opinion was that his team reflected his calm demeanor. He lauded his former mentor as a “wonderful man” who didn’t coach and motivate by fear, but by respect. Blazey remembered a particular Roesner incident when Blazey was coaching under his tutelage.
“My grandpa (Arthur) actually passed away,” Blazey said. “He had a diabetic heart attack. I was on the bench at Princeton, and I was coaching, and his son-in-law, Tony Gray, drove me home right away. So, I was pretty upset, and when we had the funeral — my grandpa was a doctor, he grew up in Washington — and Coach Roesner brought the whole team to the funeral home to pay their respects, and almost chokes me up now even thinking about it. That was such a long time ago, but that was amazing.”
Blazey said he himself changed working with Roesner. He described himself as a know-it-all who was going to do things his way. Blazey was in his 20s and thought he knew everything about basketball at that age. He said Roesner changed that attitude “360 degrees.” Blazey remembered Roesner telling him to be as positive with his players as he can while coaching them since the players were bound to hear negativity on the outside.
Southridge athletic director Brett Bardwell recalls how positive Roesner was when Bardwell, a 1979 Southridge graduate, played for the Raiders under Duncan. Bardwell knew back then what a formidable player Roesner was himself. Roesner graduated from Holland in 1953, setting multiple scoring records along the way and leading Holland to its first sectional championship. Roesner also starred at Oakland City University, and will be one of seven Mighty Oaks inducted in the hall of fame.
Bardwell remembered the conversations he had with the then-principal of Southridge in the hallways. Bardwell said Roesner told him he could make free throws when the pressure was on. The now-athletic director didn’t know if that was true, but Roesner made him believe it, and sure enough, he remembers making big free throws in wins against Springs Valley, both in the regular season and the regional tournament during his senior year.
“Honestly, he had an impact mentally when I would go the line,” Bardwell said. “I expected to [make the free throws] because Mr. Roesner said I could. I just believed what he said. He had a way of just giving you confidence.”
Southridge assistant boys varsity coach Jeff Tooley played under Roesner his junior and senior years for the Raiders. The 1992 Southridge graduate said Roesner brought in Don Buse, another Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer, to run the defense for his coaching staff. Tooley said it didn’t take long for him to take to Roesner, citing him as a player-friendly coach.
“He empowered the players,” Tooley said of Roesner. “If they saw something during a game, I always felt like, ‘Oh, we could say it to him, ‘This will work or that will work',’ and he was always open to what we saw out there.”
He said Roesner believed in peaking at the time of sectionals, adding his coach would kick the team out of the gym early in the season so they’d be fresh in time for sectionals. Tooley said Roesner had some of the principles Duncan had with an emphasis on defense and taking care of the basketball. Southridge faced a double-digit halftime deficit both in the 1991 sectional championship against Northeast Dubois and in the 1992 sectional championship against Forest Park, but Tooley and the Raiders rallied back. He said Roesner had a lot of confidence, and never had an attitude of throwing in the towel. Tooley won a sectional his senior year with brother Tim, then a sophomore, being a starter on that team, too. Jeff said he still keeps in touch with other teammates in high school, such as Eric Schmieg and Chad Clark, to reminisce about what he called the good old days.
Roesner won five sectional championships, three with the Raiders, with the last one coming in 1994. He stepped down as head coach after the 1996-97 season when Southridge made it to the sectional semifinal. Roesner won 201 games during a span of 18 seasons, with stops at Chrisney, Orleans, Princeton and Holland before taking up the mantle one last time at Southridge.
Stan Roesner said his father was more of a dad than a coach when he played under Duncan. He thought it was a "win-win" when his father joined his staff for the 1997-98 season. The father-son duo constantly talked basketball. Stan said both his father and he were for it. He added the two of them were good together. There were some difference in philosophies. He said his father was a believer in fundamentals and a conservative coach, while Stan wasn't afraid to roll the dice. Stan thought the Raiders had a chance to be good going into the season. They ran the matchup zone defense his father was known to like.
Stan said his father advised him to be himself. He said Ray very rarely spoke in the huddle during timeouts, and believed people needed to pay attention to the head coach.
"He gave me the reins and said, 'Hey, do what you think is best, and whatever you need help with or whatever questions you have, I'm here to answer,'" Stan said.
He said his father shaped him from a competitive standpoint, and also put an emphasis on preparing and planning beforehand. Stan said Southridge had a gameplan, breakdowns and watched film for every opponent the Raiders faced. He thinks the lengths Southridge went to to prepare greatly contributed to the state championship. Stan said it was very rare that the state title team didn't start well in a first quarter.
The crowning moment came March 14, 1998, at Market Square Arena when the Raiders rallied for six free throws in the last 24 seconds to get by Bluffton, 62-57. Stan said his father thanked him at one time, which he didn't quite understand. He said he was appreciative of his father.
"He's forgotten more stuff than I ever knew," Stan said. "Having him there alongside me and being in Market Square, that's just a dream. That's a dream come true. We both were real happy."
Stan said his father and he were like best friends. He misses calling up him up every day or talking about a game together. Ray Roesner passed away Feb. 7, 2018, at age 82. The induction is set for March 25 in Newcastle.
His induction was made possible in part from the efforts of one his former players. Terry Rademacher graduated from Holland in 1970 and played under Roesner his senior year. Rademacher later coached high school basketball, doing so for more than 30 years. He said he drew influence from Roesner on preparation and scouting. Rademacher said Roesner told him to enjoy what he's doing, and that his players should enjoy playing for him.
He said Roesner's case was never presented for enshrinement until friends told him his former high school coach would be a good candidate for enshrinement and that he should vouch. Rademacher filled out the paperwork and made the trip to Newcastle for an open meeting.
Rademacher made his pitch that Roesner was a star in high school and a prolific scorer in college. He pointed to the sectional championships his high school coach won and his dedication to the game. Roesner was denied enshrinement for the Class of 2018 and 2019. This did not frustrate Rademacher, who said candidates whose cases are presented for the first time are unlikely to gain entry the same year, and added there are many worthy players and coaches who aren't in.
He remembers being at his home and was very excited when he found out the third time was the charm.
"I was prepared to go back again next year if need be," Rademacher said.
Stan Roesner is appreciative for Rademacher's efforts. He said his father would have been proud to go into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. Stan added his father would feel privileged, but he wouldn't be sure if he felt deserving or not. He said his mother, Janice, though, would've been extremely happy. Stan said it was one of her dying wishes to see her husband enshrined.
"He's looking down on us with a big smile on his face," he said.
Rademacher will make sure he's there for his former coach's enshrinement in March, and others who worked with Roesner feel the same sentiment that Rademacher did about Roesner's candidacy.
“He’s overwhelmingly deserving of being in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame,” Blazey said.
“To make it into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, I hope people in the area understand how difficult that is and that you have to be respected not only here, but statewide,” Bardwell said. “For a small community, a smaller school, we’ve had more than our share. We’ve got a number that have made it. It just makes you very, very, very proud.”
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