Coach was Hope’s loss, Georgia’s gain

Even back in his high school days at Hauser, Gordy Gruhl always had a plan when it came to basketball.

His senior year of 1968-69, Gruhl used to get into Indiana Pacers games by purchasing the cheapest ticket.

“I would be sitting by the mayor by the time I got done moving around,” he said.

The Pacers’ days as an American Basketball Association team were numbered, and so were Gruhl’s days as an Indiana resident. A 1969 Hauser graduate, Gruhl followed friends to Valdosta State in Georgia.

“I went down there on a visit and it was 73 degrees there and 37 degrees in Hope,” Gruhl said. “I loved Indiana, but I loved it down there, too.”

Perhaps because of that cold day, Indiana lost a great basketball coach.

Now 63, Gruhl has coached the Deerfield-Windsor (Georgia) Knights to seven Georgia Independent Schools Association AAA championships, two as a girls coach and five as the boys coach.

His latest came March 7 when the Knights boys downed the Gatewood Gators 55-49 for their first state championship since 2010. The years pass, but winning state titles never gets old.

“All those teams and players are great, and they all are different,” Gruhl said by telephone from Deerfield-Windsor High School, where he was going about his duties as the school’s athletics director. “I can’t say that one is more special than another. I guess the way this year’s team stands out is the way things started out. We started 2-5 and then won 19 of our next 20 games. We didn’t have any superstars, so this team had to share the ball and work together. We went from one of the worst defensive teams that I have had to one of the best. It was a long journey.

“No, these teams all are like your children, they all are great in certain ways and you love watching them develop.”

Mary Gruhl Scheidt, now 86 and living in Columbus, didn’t get to watch her son develop on a day-to-day basis, but she made plenty of trips to Georgia to see him coach in big games.

“I think I’ve seen them all,” she said of her son’s seven state championship wins.

Gruhl Scheidt said she started learning about basketball when her son was young. “I had to become a fan if I wanted to be part of the family,” she said with a laugh. “Even since Gordy was a young boy, probably sixth or seventh grade, he said he wanted to coach.”

So why does he succeed?

“He cares about the boys,” she said. “And he constantly prepares himself well. He also is pretty rough with them.”

If Gordy Gruhl has been strict with discipline, it has paid off. He won his 1,000th game as a high school coach in 2012 and this season was his 39th year overall. He had stops at Worth Academy in Sylvester, Georgia and Edmund Burke in Waynesburo, Georgia before joining the staff at Deerfield-Windsor in 1983.

He does get home to Bartholomew County to visit family and he still has fond memories of the area.

“Indiana people are great,” he said. “I think people in the Midwest and South have a lot of similarities.

“But there is no state like Indiana when it comes to basketball, unless you are talking about Kentucky … which I hate to say. What I remember most about Indiana was how crazy people were about basketball. It was just the thought of everyone going and playing in one tournament. The nostalgic side of me says that’s the way it still should be.”

Deerfield-Windsor does not face public schools that aren’t part of GISA, but Gruhl said his team’s competition is very good.

“If we were in the public school division, we would be in the smallest classification,” he said. “And we would compete favorably. But our public system is not up to par, and the statistics show that.”

He said he has no thoughts of retiring and still enjoys every moment.

“I still enjoy working with the kids,” he said. “I’ve been very blessed. It’s been a great ride, a great experience.”