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Panthers stay upbeat about season as Hall of Fame coach steps away due to medical concerns

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NORTH VERNON — Jennings County boys basketball coach Mike Broughton is stepping back to address some undisclosed health concerns.

Assistant coach Joe Hartwell will be the interim head coach, and Broughton will serve as an assistant until he is cleared to resume his head coaching duties.

“Broughton’s had some health concerns,” Jennings County Schools Superintendent Terry Sargent said. “He came to see me about them on Monday and went to his doctor on Tuesday. His doctors advised him to step away from being the head coach for a while.”

According to Sargent, Broughton will be working a limited schedule as athletics director also, working three or four days per week until his health is reassessed over winter break.

The Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame coach was appointed the athletics director in 2008, and Broughton agreed to take over the Panthers after Bob Howe resigned in March.

“Everyone in the community has been excited about Mike taking over our basketball program this year,” Sargent said. “I thought it was a no-brainer and we should give him the opportunity if he wanted it.

“He’s one of the most knowledgeable basketball people I’ve ever been around.”

Broughton’s team split its first two games of the season, and the former Jeffersonville coach has enjoyed being back on the sidelines again.

“The first thing he told me was that he enjoyed being with the boys on the team,” Sargent said. “He told me he was having fun. Mike told the team about this at practice Thursday night.”

Broughton and the high school principal, Tim Taylor, recommended that Hartwell coach the team while Broughton is recuperating.

“Coach Hartwell came to us two years ago and has impressed us with his expertise serving as Broughton’s assistant this year,” Sargent said. “He’s the former head coach of South Decatur, and he played high school basketball for us when Kendall Wildey was our coach. I’m confident he’s the right choice to lead this team in Mike’s absence.”

Sargent urges Panthers fans to remain upbeat about this news.

“There may be some people who are disappointed about this,” he said. “We all need to keep Mike and his family in our thoughts. Hopefully, he can come back to us soon.”

The Panthers went 11-12 last season after going 19-4 the previous year.

This season the Panthers are led by senior guards Bailey Sanders and Bryson Mills. The 5-10 Sanders averaged 11 points a game last season, and the 5-9 Mills averaged seven points a game.

Senior 6-3 forward Tommy Taylor should anchor the front line after averaging 13.3 points a game last season. Brad Hunt, a 6-9 junior center, should be a dominating presence in the middle. He averaged 5.3 points a game a year ago.

Junior Adrian Kirchner, 6-1, is another talented returning player.

New key players include 6-5 sophomore Caleb Elder, 5-9 junior Johnny Scruggs, 6-1 sophomore Dan Leach, 6-0 junior Jonah Woods    and 6-5 sophomore Richard MacNamee.

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