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John Collier remembered as teacher and coach

By John Estridge, Sports Editor

John Collier was many things to many different people.

He passed Wednesday, Nov. 21 at the Thornton Terrace Health Campus in Hanover.

To Brookville residents and many Franklin County residents Mr. Collier was Coach Collier.

He coached at Brookville High School for 10 years, but his imprint was much larger than that.

After leaving Brookville, Coach Collier returned to his alma mater, Hanover College. His first time there, he enrolled after returning from serving in World War II. He played basketball at Hanover, starring in all four years. Then, he coached there after his time in Brookville. He also became the Panthers athletics director.

He is in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. He was inducted in 1979. This is his induction write up at the Hall: “Twice leading scorer and captain at Guilford H.S. (Dearborn County) … four-year letter winner MVP as a senior in 1944 … at Hanover College started every game in his four years captain and MVP as junior helped Hanover win its first Hoosier College Conference championship … coached Vevay High School from 1951-56 and Brookville 1956-66 … named coach of the year three times by the Southeastern Indiana Coaches-Officials-Principals Association … became Hanover basketball coach in 1966, athletic director two years later … coached Panthers to five berths in the NAIA national tournament … three times coach of the year in the Hoosier Collegiate Conference. His son, Steve, was Mr. Basketball in 1974.”

According to the late Vic Hauberg who kept the scorebook for the Brookville Greyhounds and then Franklin County Wildcats for many decades, Coach Collier was 185-52 overall at BHS, which includes an 11-11 record in his initial season at Brookville. That was also the last year for the Lew Wallace Gym. His home record was 100-13. Four of his 13 home losses came in that initial season. He was 26-10 in the post-season tournament.

Also during his tenure, the Greyhounds won five sectional championships and one regional championship. The regional championship, as most Greyhound fans remember or have learned through passed-down lore, was the 1964-65 Greyhounds, which went to the semistate. At the semistate, they lost to eventual state champion Indianapolis Washington, 79-63. Indianapolis Washington beat Fort Wayne North Side 64-57 for the state championship. Future Purdue University and NBA star Billy Keller was on the 1965 Indianapolis Washington team.

In his last year of coaching the Greyhounds, the 1965-66 team won its first 17 games and won the third consecutive sectional crown. The Greyhounds lost to Aurora in the regional, 62-54. Charles Sprague, who took over after Coach Collier went to Hanover, led the B-Team to an undefeated season.

Coach Collier coached at Hanover until 1988 and was the athletics director until his retirement in 1991. Overall, as a high school and college coach, Coach Collier amassed 615 wins, according to his obituary. Of those, 388 games were won at Hanover. He also won multiple conference championships.

He was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Hanover College Hall of Fame in 1995.

Hanover College Alumni established the John R. Collier Mental Attitude Award in 1991. Hanover College named its arena the John Collier Arena.

He was awarded a Kentucky Colonel and Sagamore of the Wabash.

A former player who also became a high school basketball coach, Bill Collett, talked about his relationship with Coach Collier.

“Coach Collier was always in control, and he was so organized,” Collett said. “He would write down on a note card the summary of the game played which included what and how we played, what the other team played on defense and so on. He wrote down all of the good and bad points of the game. Then, he filed this away.

“The next season, if we had played a team the year before, he would get the file card out and read to us what happened in the game,” Collett continued. “This was very important if we happened to meet these teams in the tournament the same year as we played them in the regular season. He would always do this. He kept all the cards. This impressed me so much. This was before dvd and vhs.

“His practices were just as organized, drills down to the minute, three minutes here, four minutes there and so on,” Collett said. “He was very successful at being a teacher and a coach.”

Collett said Coach Collier was very inspirational to him and influenced his decision to be a coach.

“There is no doubt about it,” Collett said.

Collett happened to meet with Coach Collier when Coach Collier was in the nursing home.

“A couple of years back I was visiting my sister in Madison,” Collett said. “She told me that Coach was in Hanover at the nursing home. I went over to see him. He was 90 at the time. We sat and talked basketball for two hours. He could still remember players and certain situations. He didn't recognize me but knew when I told him my name. He said 'Billy, oh I remember you, Bill Collett.'”