WHERE ARE THEY NOW
Father/coach role strengthens CC family's bond
February 26, 2012Lafayette Central Catholic High School
Brianna Tharp still remembers the first time her father put a basketball in her hands.
"I would sit on the steps and just dribble," said the Central Catholic junior guard. "Ever since then, I've loved it."
The basketball bloodlines run deep in the Tharp family. Brianna, her sister Angela and cousin Emily all play for the Knights. Pat Tharp, father of Brianna and Angela, is the head coach.
Pat remembers his basketball upbringing, coached by his father, Max, in elementary school in Wisconsin. His siblings had a passion and a knack for the game.
Now with four children of his own, Pat "planted the seed" early on with his first-born, Brianna. Angela followed and on down to sixth-grade twins Patrick and Alyssa.
Emily grew up in the competitive Tharp atmosphere, playing with her cousins.
Having that continuity made for an easy transition to high school basketball for Emily, whose father Bob is the vice president at Packaging Systems of Indiana. Pat is the president and also owns Hoosier Recycling.
"I definitely did not come in last year nervous to be playing high school basketball for the first time," said Emily, a sophomore reserve guard.
Pat Tharp is a former point guard. He played Division III basketball at Ripon (Wis.) College and helped the Red Hawks win a conference title his senior year before losing to Illinois Wesleyan in the NCAA tournament.
He coached at the elementary and junior high levels.
Parents asked Tharp to consider applying for the vacant head coaching position at CC in 2009, when Geoff Salmon, a teacher at Lafayette Jeff, resigned to coach the Bronchos. With Brianna set to be a freshman the following season, he did.
"I felt like that was such a blessing for him to continue on coaching me into high school," Brianna said. "I felt like that is the way God wanted it to be, and I am glad I had the chance to play for my dad."
Angela is a freshman this year and, although she never developed into a dominant center, which she and her father joked about years ago, she is one of the team's best rebounders despite being listed at just 5-foot-7.
She's used to the intense coaching her father supplies from the CC bench. She got a taste of it during the Amateur Athletic Union season. She accepts her father as a basketball junkie and a competitive one.
Angela learned firsthand at Hillsdale College in Michigan, where Pat and Bob's brother, John, is the head coach of the Chargers.
"We had a three-on-three basketball tournament," Angela remembers. "It was me, Brianna and Emily on one team. It was my dad and his two brothers. Then my aunts were on different teams. It was really competitive. Especially with my dad. He is very competitive."
After lobbying Salmon to remain at CC, Pat Tharp was initially hesitant about taking the job. He'd never coached at the high school level and had no desire to, either.
"Thinking that my kids were going to be a part of the team, it's a good way to spend some quality time with them and connect with them at a different level from being at home," he said.
As it turned out, Pat gets a lot more out of the additional hours inside Central Catholic's McHale Gymnasium than just getting to spend extra quality time with his children.
"I used to be the kind of guy who would work 16, 17, 18 hours a day. I kind of was wired that way," he said. "This gives me balance. The business world can be a tough world, and the coaching world has its own tough challenges.
"They kind of help balance each other off. It hopefully makes me a better business person and a better coach."
With an abundance of returning talent, the Knights won sectional titles in each of his first two seasons at the helm. Last year, CC lost in the regional championship to state runner-up Turkey Run.
In all, Central Catholic has won six sectional titles in a row, starting with the 2006 Class A state championship run under Salmon.
After graduating four seniors last year who now play sports at the college level, this year's Knights squad has suffered through a 3-18 season.
It does not deter the ultimate goal, however, of winning a seventh sectional title in a row. That quest begins Friday at Rossville in the Class A, Sectional 54 tournament, where Pat Tharp will take two of his daughters, his niece and a team so close to him that he considers them almost additional daughters.
"You want to help them fulfill the maximum potential they have as players and as kids," Pat said. "That's my job as a coach and a parent."