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Benton Central coach leaves his mark

May 22, 2012
Huntington North High School

Benton Central coach leaves his mark
OXFORD — A near-perfect field rat.

When Dan Dawson, a 1972 Benton Central graduate and former Bison athletic director, speaks of retiring baseball coach Gary DeHaven, that’s the affectionate term he uses to describe a man who has 470 victories in 26 seasons at the Benton County school.

DeHaven, 64, is leaving the coaching profession after 37 seasons as a varsity coach, including stints at Hamilton and Kankakee Valley. He took over at BC for the 1987 season. Not including the four seasons at Hamilton, for which he can not locate an exact victory total, DeHaven’s teams at KV and BC have amassed 568 triumphs.

“He obviously has great knowledge of baseball, and he has a passion for it,” said Dawson, who was DeHaven’s boss from 1997 through 2007. “He loves coaching. If a basketball guy is a gym rat, Gary would be a field rat.

“He just loves being on a baseball field, from practice to taking care of the field. He was just so into having a great program. You have to admire someone who has been in it for as long as Gary has. He stuck with it with all the changes in the open summer (practices). He has maintained his standards and philosophies.”

Central Catholic coach Tim Bordenet, whose Knights have won three consecutive Class A state championships, was one of DeHaven’s assistant coaches in 1999 and 2000. He appreciates DeHaven’s eagerness to teach the game he loves.

“Anybody who has stayed in the game as long as he has is committed not only to the game but to his school and to his players,” Bordenet said. “He always has worked at it and always has had great teams. For him to have the longevity that he has had is amazing to me. Lord willing, I hope I can stay in the game for as long as he has.

“I admire his perseverance and the fact that he always has energy. Somebody who has been in it that long has a tendency to lose that fire near the end of their career. That’s not Gary. He still is as energetic as he was when he first started.”

As an administrator, current Benton Central athletic director Jim Puckett admires the manner in which DeHaven interacts with student-athletes young enough to be his grandchildren.
“Coach DeHaven is a good influence on young people,” Puckett said. “He goes to work when he is supposed to, and he does his job. He does it the best he can every time he is there. That’s something our kids need to see.

“Last year, he retired from teaching, but he talked to me about coaching (in 2012). He said he was going to talk to his players. All of our seniors went to talk to him and told him that they wanted him to come back.”

Puckett said that considering the time demands for high school coaches during this generation, for DeHaven to coach 37 seasons is an amazing contribution to scholastic sports.

“It’s his work ethic, his loyalty and all of those leadership qualities he has,” Puckett said. “He did a lot of things in his coaching career, and not all of them were always popular, but those were things to make the baseball program better.”

DeHaven attended a small high school in Huntington County until his senior year of 1965-66. When the small school closed, DeHaven attended what is now Huntington North, graduating in 1966. During that one year at Huntington North, DeHaven played football, basketball and baseball.

After high school, DeHaven enrolled at Taylor University, an NAIA school in Upland, playing outfield for a baseball team that was ranked No. 8 nationally in 1969. After earning a bachelor’s degree in 1970, DeHaven began his teaching and coaching career at Hamilton High School in northeastern Indiana.

DeHaven spent five years at Hamilton, serving as head baseball coach from 1972 through 1975, winning one conference championship. He returned to Huntington North for the 1975-76 school year, hoping to be selected head baseball coach.

In 1979, when DeHaven realized that Don Sherman would be entrenched as Huntington North’s baseball coach for years to come, DeHaven moved on to Kankakee Valley, where he was reunited with Tim Albert, who had been head football coach at Hamilton when DeHaven was the school’s baseball coach.

KV was known primarily as a basketball school. Nevertheless, DeHaven won 98 games in seven seasons, including the 1986 sectional championship and a pair of conference titles. Kankakee Valley defeated Lafayette Jeff in the 1986 Lafayette Regional opening round before losing to Benton Central in the title game.
When BC coach Tony Primavera applied for and was hired at Lafayette Jeff for the 1987 season, DeHaven applied for the BC job and was hired by athletic director Dick Atha to teach health and physical education and to coach baseball. DeHaven had found his home.

“I just really love coaching,” DeHaven said. “We’ve won only one regional, but we’ve had some really good teams and some really good players. It’s a great community ... a baseball, basketball community. We’ve been fortunate to have had some guys who really wanted to work hard,”

Pitcher Neal Musser, who played Major League Baseball, Ryan Sipe and Keith Waller are on a long list of excellent players DeHaven helped developed. During his tenure at BC, DeHaven experienced a 26-game winning streak and a 25-game streak.

His teams won 14 sectionals and eight Hoosier Conference championships.

“Having good players and a good community is what it takes,” DeHaven said. “A coach can’t do it by himself. I’ve had a lot of good assistant coaches and a lot of good support. I’ve had phenomenal help.

“In coaching, it’s also about perseverance. You don’t ever give up. You always have to keep working hard, and if you do, good things will happen. I’ve always surrounded myself with good people. I believe that good things will happen to good people.”

John O’Malley, Benton Central’s second baseman and leadoff man, is one of those seniors who requested that DeHaven coach the 2012 Bison after leaving teaching last spring.

“He has been a great leader and role model for us,” O’Malley said. “He usually is more fired up than we are for the games. He has that fire in him. I think that’s something he always will have in him.

“He used to get on his players, but he has cooled down for us. He has a calming influence, which is the side I like. He really knows his baseball. I think it would be tough to coach for 37 years, but he is someone who just stuck with it and had fun with it. I know he enjoys himself.”

Atha, a Benton County native who was impressed with DeHaven when the former AD was looking to replace Primavera in 1986, is convinced he made the right choice.

“Gary has such dedication and devotion,” Atha said. “One of the great things he does here is have his kids working on and maintaining the field. He has taken care of (Snodgrass Field) so well.

“We’ve been down a little bit in basketball and football, and people ask me, ‘How do we keep winning in baseball?’ I tell them that the coaching continuity has been important. That’s difficult to sustain today. The continuity Gary has brought has made a difference.”


Age: 64
Education: Graduated in 1966 from Huntington North High School and in 1970 from Taylor University. Played football, basketball and baseball in high school and was a starting outfielder at Taylor.
Baseball coaching career: Hamilton High School (1972-75), official record not available; Assistant at Huntington North High School (1976-79); Kankakee Valley High School (1980-86), 98-97; Benton Central High School (1987-2012), 470-289.
Note: The Bison will play Northwestern in the opening round of the Class 3A sectional at West Lafayette on Wednesday.

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