A signature occasion: Kouts names its basketball court after former coach Marty Gaff
For coaches who spend any significant length of time in the profession or at a particular school, one of the perks of retirement is having the chance to be a part of special occasions in their lives.
So it is for Marty Gaff, the boys basketball coach at Kouts from 1984 to 2013.
Gaff was at the wedding of former Mustang Craig VanDyke (Class of 2006) when an unintentional slip of the tongue by Kyle Mueller (2008) let the cat out of the bag.
"He said, hey coach, congratulations on having the court named after you," Gaff said. "Brad Parks (2009) was there, too, and he was like, no, no, no, you weren't supposed to say anything."
So while Friday's ceremonies at the Korral, where the school will unveil the naming of its court after Gaff, aren't the surprise that Kouts coach Kevin Duzan and assistant Jeff Overholt had planned on, it sure doesn't diminish the tribute for the honoree.
"Now I realized what was going on when wife wanted a copy of my signature," Gaff said. "I'm hoping somebody can read it. I don't know if I ever could. I'm pretty honored they would even consider doing it. It's very humbling. I'm pleasantly surprised. I just don't know what else to say. It means a lot. I'm not sure all that's going on, but it should be a good night. I'm excited about it. I'll enjoy seeing a lot of people I don't get to see every day. I think I'll be a little emotional."
Gaff graduated from Wolflake High School, which consolidated into Central Noble a few years later, where his baseball and basketball talents took him to Goshen College. He spent 11 years as an assistant at Goshen High School before his hiring at Kouts in 1984. Gaff was 392 games in over three decades, then another six in 2015, when he coached the final 10 games of the season
"I felt very fortunate to teach and coach at Kouts," Gaff said. "I had so many good kids in the classroom and on the basketball court. It's just a great place to be, a really good community. They support the school so much. I was fortunate to live and raise our family there. Once I was there, I was like, why would I go anywhere else? I just hope I left an impact on somebody somewhere down the line, all the coaches and quality people I dealt with."
Rick Hise, a 2003 grad whose 2,022 career points were the most scored by a Kouts player during Gaff's tenure, appreciated the balance Gaff was able to strike as a coach.
"To me, he was a great coach who made playing basketball fun, while maintaining high expectations," said Hise, an assistant principal at La Porte's Kesling Intermediate School. "The success he experienced at Kouts came from hard work and perseverance. He continued to maintain those relationships with his players after they graduated. As great a coach as he was, he is an even better person. The turnout at tonight’s game will highlight the impact he had on his players. He will always be 'Coach.'"
Former LaCrosse coach and current Morgan Township assistant Preston Frame, a 2008 grad, enjoyed the folksy approach to Gaff that characterizes his personality in general.
"The thing I remember most about coach Gaff is how loose he kept practice," Frame said. "He was always good for a joke or two. When our post players floated around the perimeter instead of the block, he would act like he had allergies and said they must be allergic to paint. Or if someone got a kind roll on a shot, he’d say someone must have went to church and called it 'St. Mattress' or 'Bedside Baptist.' Outside of being a great coach, he always found ways to have great relationships with all his players."
Gaff remains a regular at Kouts games even since he and Sally moved to Valpo to be closer to their daughters and grandchildren. He didn't get to see many of the 2020-21 games in person due to COVID-19, but watched regularly online and did attend the Class A state championship.
"What a great team and great year," he said.
The Gaffs celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in April with a family vacation to Hawaii.
"Without her love and support, I don't know where I'd be," he said. "She's followed me around to games. When you're married to a basketball coach, you're married to basketball, too. I'm really enjoying my retirement tremendously. Every stage of life is special."
Kouts honored former coach Marty Gaff with naming of its basketball court after him Friday. The image on the wall will be put on the court in the summer. (Photo by Joe Wagner)