BNL legend, former
boys coach, takes over
Class 4-A defending
By Justin Sokeland
Damon Bailey, already a Bedford North Lawrence basketball legend, will have the opportunity to add to his legacy as a coach.
Bailey, an assistant for the past four years, was named the new head coach of the BNL girls basketball team on Thursday night. He succeeds Kurt Godlevske, who departed for the Butler University women’s program after guiding the Lady Stars to the Class 4-A state championship in 2013.
Bailey, the career scoring leader in Indiana high school history, steps into a coach’s dream situation. The Stars, coming off a 28-0 season and the school’s third state title, return eight of their top 10 players and all five starters (including his daughter Alexa). That comes with the price of pressure to meet tremendous expectations.
“I’m excited about it,” Bailey said. “Obviously there’s going to be very high expectations. Kurt has set the bar pretty high. Short of going 30-0 and winning the state championship, I’m going to fail. But that’s part of it. I can deal with that part. I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
Bailey has plenty of experience. He has been an AAU coach since his daughter started following in his footsteps in the second grade, and he served as the BNL boys head coach for two seasons (2005-07) with a 23-19 record.
His hiring should make the transition a seamless one as the Stars prepare for their championship defense.
“The transition is going to be smooth,” BNL athletic director Jeff Callahan said. “You’re able to take someone on the staff and move up to that position, especially when it’s someone with the knowledge and the abilities as a coach that Damon has.”
Familiarity and comfort is the key for the Stars, who will not have to break in someone new or adjust and make changes.
“I think it’s good that it’s someone on the staff who knows everything about us,” BNL junior Brittani Rizzi said. “It’s really good to have someone we know really well. It will help everything. Hopefully everything will stay the same.”
“From the kids’ standpoint, they won’t know anything different,’ Bailey said, “other than someone different will be yelling at them. We have a great group of kids. The system is in place. We just have to go out and play well, continue to work hard like we have. I know these kids. We should be able to keep things going.”
Bailey’s promotion was not a simple decision. The extra demands of a head coach will take him away from his Bedford business (Hawkins Bailey Warehouse) more often.
“The administrative part is really the difficult part for me,” Bailey said. “Actual time on the gym floor with the girls, I was here anyway. What will change, and it seems minor, but I didn’t have to make decisions about making sure we were fed before games, making sure what time the bus leaves. That’s the part that is time consuming.
“In the role I was in, I could just coach the kids and not worry about the other stuff. I didn’t have to worry about playing time, who was mad and who was happy, I just coached kids. And that’s the part any coach will tell you they enjoy. The other part is just part of the business, and you just have to accept that and move on.”
The other issue involves the Indiana High School Athletic Association rule governing basketball and football coaches. The organization wants coaches to be certified to teach in schools of Indiana, and IHSAA Rule 7-1.4 requires the commissioner to approve a waiver for any “lay coach” in the major sports.
The commissioner can grant a five-year extension if the coach completes two approved coaching courses and an additional five-year extension if they complete two approved education courses. That waiver has been requested.
Godlevske, who resigned on May 7, went 120-41 in season seasons. He managed a staff that Bailey (who called the offenses), Jeff Allen and Brett Holtz, and those two will return to help Bailey.
“What Coach G had done here – not only last year but the previous years with the success the team had – was build the program back up,” Bailey said. “Anybody could come in here and coach these kids and win a lot of games. But when you’re talking about being great, about winning state championships, there’s other things that go into it other than being good. By having this transition, we will minimize that.
“I don’t want to put it on the system, because 95 percent of it is the girls and how good they are individually. But when you play at that elite level, you have to have a little luck involved, you have to have a togetherness. And this group has it.”
Bailey biggest problem will be balancing playing time for a veteran group and blending in at least two or three new players from last year’s junior varsity.
“Fortunately we’re very good and we have a lot of very good players,” Bailey said. “Unfortunately, for the girls individually, we have lot of talent. Whether it’s playing time, shots or scoring, people have to make sacrifices. I thought that was the one thing Kurt did a remarkable job of last year, getting the kids to buy into that. That will be the challenge I have, to continue to get them to buy into the fact it’s about BNL and doing what’s best for the Lady Stars. If we do that, individual accolades will come.
“Not that they like every decision you make, but you do hope they respect it and they know you have the best interest of the team at heart. That’s the tough thing. As a head coach, you’re making decisions based on a team.”
BNL will start official practices for the 2013-14 campaign on Oct. 28 and start the regular season at home with Mitchell on Nov. 16.