By STEVE HANLON
JP on Preps Correspondent
CEDAR LAKE -- Brian Kelly has gotten a lot of attention the last couple of days.
When the Notre Dame football coach decided to leave the Irish on Monday night to take over at LSU, it was a shocker.
But Kelly was not the first to do such a thing.
Brad Stangel left a Catholic school (Andrean) in Indiana this past summer to get a job at a public school, when he took over the boys basketball coaching position at Hanover Central.
“It was different,” Stangel said after his Wildcats lost to Westville 53-51 on Tuesday night. “But I wanted a new challenge.”
He coached at Andrean for five years and the program was very successful. The 59ers won the 2019 Class 2A state championship.
The departure south was not easy at all.
Stangel married into Andrean royalty when he exchanged rings with Jamie Gutowski, a star at 5959 Broadway and also at Valparaiso University. Jamie’s father, Dennis Gutowski, was an assistant coach at Andrean for years and is a member of the Indiana Football Hall of Fame.
Andrean baseball coach Dave Pishkur is Stangel’s uncle by marriage.
Exchanging his red and gold for powder blue was not easy.
“It was a difficult decision,” Stangel said. “I was rooting for Chris (Skinner) last week in the state championship game. But this is different. It’s exciting. (Hanover) will be home for me soon enough.”
Stangel did not get $95 million to take his whistle to Cedar Lake like Kelly did in going to Baton Rouge. But he did get a teaching job, which he didn’t have at Andrean. And he has an opportunity to build a program from the middle school level up, which he also didn’t have on Broadway.
Hanover is growing at an extreme rate and former Wildcats coach, Bryon Clouse -- now at Portage -- won sectional championships in 2019 and 2020.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is this Wildcats team has almost no varsity experience and it showed in the first half. Westville led 16-8 after one quarter and 31-19 at the half. Knocking knees and quick breaths were a reason for the poor start.
“They did a good job getting into us,” Stangel said of the Blackhawks’ defense. “We stopped moving.”
The mood of the game changed in the third quarter. Senior Cole Hernandez nailed three 3-pointers to tighten the scoreboard. Josh Austgen tallied six in the third as the home team drew within four.
But the ‘Cats did not score their first point of the fourth until 3:50 left in the game. And still they had a chance to win. They had the ball with a tied score with 20 seconds left when a five-second violation was called.
That gave the ball back to Westville. Julian Ellis was fouled with 4.5 seconds left and the senior hit both free throws.
Hernandez took a 3-pointer inside of half-court that went in-and-out as the buzzer sounded.
“I had no idea we’d fight back like that,” Hanover senior Nick Holden said. “We have a good group. I’m excited we fought back like we did. Everything is new. I loved (Clouse) but I’m 100 percent excited with (Stangel).
“There’s some stuff I agree with in this new offense and some things I disagree with, but I believe in what we’re doing and we’ll get this going in the right direction.”
Stangel did not need GPS to find the directions to his new school. The tradition and talent magnet found on Broadway is not the same. But he came to the new haunts for a reason and winning is near the top of the list.
Some things never change.
“I want to teach these kids to be high-character kids as they move on into adulthood,” he said. “But you can do all those important things and win, too. It will come. We will get better.
“This will be home soon enough.”
Hanover Central coach Brad Stangel talks to his team during Tuesday's Wildcats season-opener against Westville. Stangel spent the last five seasons at Andrean. Photo by Steve Hanlon