Originally published Feb. 24, 2014.
After planning awards banquets for the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame for 25 years, Bob Straight, of Huntington, doesn't mind attending this year's ceremony as a spectator.
"It's a relief," he says with a laugh.
Straight, however - the longtime coach of the Huntington High School boys' varsity basketball team whose 1963-64 squad played for the state title, and a 1979 hall of fame inductee - will still be a part of the banquet in a big way.
The ceremony, which will celebrate the Hall's newest inductees and honorees to its men's wing, at Primo Banquet Hall in Indianapolis on March 26, will include a special tribute to Straight for his contributions to high school basketball as a coach, administrator and leader.
"It's really an honor for me and it's very humbling because there's a lot of other people that are more deserving than I am," he says. "But I'm looking forward to it and I don't know what to expect because I didn't know anything about it until just recently."
A talented basketball player at Hammond High School and then Ball State University, Straight, now 88, began his coaching career at Earl Park in 1950. From there, he moved on to his alma mater, Hammond, before stopping at Highland.
In 1959, he arrived in Huntington. Over the next eight seasons, his teams won eight sectionals, four regionals and one semi-state crown.
The state runner-up team is still on his mind today.
"I think about them quite often," he says, "because we had a great bunch of kids. One thing about the kids, they came from great families. I've always said, I could make the rules, but the parents had to enforce them. And they did.
"They were a very good team."
Straight notes that part of that squad's legacy is how two of its players, Mike Shoemaker and Mike Weaver, were the first to ever play on four regional winners in Indiana.
"For a school our size, it was very unusual to get that many good players at one time," he observes. "When I came to Huntington, we were only a school of 750."
Straight believes that his players' participation on the football team had something to do with the success they experienced on the hardwood.
"Football was very strong at that time," he recalls. "My first two years here, we didn't lose a game in football and tied one. In the third year, we lost one. And all those kids were used to winning, came over to basketball, and I think that carried over."
All 12 members from the state runner-up team played football, too, which was done in order to fulfill Straight's mandate that his players participate in a sport every season of the school year.
That players today concentrate on basketball year-round is a foreign concept to Straight, but also one that he understands, given the rise of Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and travel basketball teams.
"There was no AAU at that time, so there wasn't pressure on them," Straight says of his players. "Today, if you don't do what the guy next door's doing, you're going to be criticized, especially if you don't win."
Hoops as a 12-month sport is far from the only change Straight has witnessed, as the advents of the three-point line and class basketball also stick out in his mind.
"I can understand where the small school's coming from in liking the class basketball," he states. "But it's really taken something away."
Straight hung up his whistle in 1967 to become the school's principal, a position he held until 1986 upon his retirement from Huntington North.
Just because he traded his bench for a desk, though, didn't mean his involvement with basketball was over.
He was, in fact, involved with the sport more than ever. Straight was a member and eventual president of the Indiana High School Athletic Association's Board of Control, which gave him a different perspective on basketball.
"With the IHSAA, it was really a very interesting time," he says. "We had a big push for class basketball at that time. So, we took a poll, and we used to have five districts at that time in the IHSAA - they only have three now - and in all five districts, they voted down class basketball.
"But it really gained popularity with the smaller schools and I understand that. It was interesting - be on the board and get the inside insight into how rules are made and how cases are decided on the eligibility and so forth.
"I had a chance to serve with a lot of really good people in there."
Straight also became president of the hall of fame at a pivotal point in its history.
"Being part of building the new building in New Castle after moving from Indianapolis, that was a big affair, too," he says of the hall's 1990 move. "It was very interesting how it proceeded, all the contributions and so forth."
And as the long-tenured chairman of the hall's banquet committee, Straight put together programs, booked speakers, assigned seating and arranged menus.
While he doesn't miss the pressure of those tasks, he admits, "it was fun doing it during the time that I did it."
Looking back, Straight says family is the key to having success in coaching.
"If you didn't have the support of your family, you couldn't go into coaching,"he explains. "Because the wife has to put up with a lot of things. Especially inconvenience.
"Family is very, very important."
In the end, his favorite thing about coaching is the extended family it gave him.
"You make a lot of good friends in coaching, from students and from fellow coaches," he muses. "It's really an interesting life."
But he can't help but add, "It's much more interesting when you win."
Complete caption: Bob Straight, of Huntington, the longtime coach of the Huntington High School boys’ varsity basketball team, gazes at a picture in his house of the 1963-64 team that played for the state title. Straight, a 1979 member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, will be honored by the hall during its men’s awards banquet on March 26, in Indianapolis, for his contributions to high school basketball as a coach, administrator and leader.