Nine years prior to the Milan Miracle, there were the tiny Hope Red Devils making a tournament run to the round that is now called the semistate.
At the forefront of that team was Bill Shepherd. As a senior, Shepherd put Hope on the Indiana basketball map by leading the 1945 team to sectional and regional championships.
Shepherd died Thursday morning at Wellbrooke of Carmel assisted living center at the age of 91.
“He was a gracious man, gentle to the core,” said Shepherd’s nephew, former Hauser boys and girls basketball coach Butch Jordan.
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Jordan had visited Shepherd about two weeks ago in Carmel, where the Shepherd family came to be regarded as “Indiana’s First Family of Basketball.” He coached his sons Billy and David, both of which earned Mr. Basketball honors.
David led the 1970 Carmel team to a state runner-up finish in Bill’s final year of coaching. Another son, Steve, helped the Greyhounds claim their first state basketball title in 1977.
“(Bill) lamented (retiring after the 1970 season) for many years,” Jordan said. “He confided in me, ‘I quit too early.’”
The rise of Hope
Shepherd and Hope gained prominence in the 1944-45 season. The Red Devils beat Waldron, Moral Township, Shelbyville and Morristown to win the Shelbyville Sectional.
The following week, Hope downed Greensburg 38-37 and Franklin 41-38 to capture the Shelbyville Regional, its first regional title in school history. The Red Devils then fell to Broad Ripple 54-36 in the state semifinals (now called the semistate).
Shepherd was named All-Sectional, All-Regional and All-Semistate. Following the season, he was selected to the Indiana All-Star team.
“Bill was a very nice person,” said June Gilliland, now the only living member of Hope’s Class of 1945. “He was always friendly with everybody. He was our star basketball player, but he didn’t take it that he was better than anybody else. Everybody got along at school back then.”
Gilliland was one of 13 girls in that class. There were only five boys, and three, including Shepherd, were on the basketball team.
Shepherd married his high school sweetheart, Edie Perry, who was a cheerleader for the Red Devils. She died in 2011.
“It broke Bill’s heart and mine,” Jordan said. “She was a special lady. Edie was my favorite aunt.”
Building a powerhouse
After playing one year at Indiana University, Shepherd transferred to Butler, where he played his final three years for Tony Hinkle. Shepherd also played baseball at Butler and held the school record with a .418 batting average for more than 50 years.
As was the case with most people who played for Hinkle, it wasn’t hard landing a job, especially a coaching job, after college. Shepherd found his at Mitchell High School.
“Bill just adored Tony Hinkle, and Tony loved him, as well,” Jordan said.
Shepherd coached at Mitchell from 1949-58 before making the move to Carmel, where he won 50 consecutive home games from 1967-70. He had a career coaching record of 336-145.
In addition to coaching the boys basketball team, Shepherd was the Greyhounds athletics director. He added several sports programs, most of them girls sports.
Of Carmel’s state-leading 148 IHSAA state championships, the first 41 were won while Shepherd was AD. In those times, the school was a fraction the size it is today.
“Most people thought he was taking a step down in coaching going from Mitchell to podunk Carmel,” Jordan said.
Shepherd later served on the IHSAA executive committee. He was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975 and is the only individual to have been an Indiana All-Star and have two sons and a grandson who were Indiana All-Stars.
Supporting his nephew
After retiring as Carmel’s AD in 1992, Shepherd often came back to Hope to watch Jordan coach the Hauser boys and girls teams (Hope and Clifford consolidated into Hauser in 1957).
Jordan was boys coach from 1972-79 and girls coach from 2000-05 at Hauser. He also coached cross-country for 19 years and track and field for 25 years during his 40-year teaching tenure.
“(Bill) was so thrilled and Edie too when I got to coach at Hauser,” Jordan said. “When we won the (girls) sectional in 2005, he and Edie were at every game practically.”
Jordan was friends with Bob May, who died last fall. When May died, his wife gave Jordan a Butler yearbook that prominently featured Shepherd to take to the former standout.
Shepherd is survived by his children, Billy (Connie), David (Sally), Cindy McCurdy and Steve, along with 15 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday at Carmel United Methodist Church. The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday, followed by a Celebration of Life from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at the church. The burial will be private.