The Mount Rushmore of Michigan City boys basketball, in no particular order: Dan Palombizio, Delray Brooks, Doug Adams and the 1965-66 Elston Red Devils.
In case you need an explanation (and if you do — well, ugh), the first two were Indiana Mr. Basketball winners, and the latter two brought back to Michigan City its lone public school state championship.
Now, this weekend, 50 years have passed since the Red Devils beat Indianapolis Tech, 63-52, to claim that state crown. In today's N-D, we have a tribute to those most famous of Red Devils on pages B2-B3.
As local fans know all too well, that was a different time for basketball in Michigan City. From 1953-1972, Elston never lost 10 games in any season. From 1958 through 1972, Adams' first 15 seasons at the Elston helm, the Red Devils compiled an absurd 323-65 record, for a .832 winning percentage. In those 15 seasons, there were 15 sectional titles, five regional titles, and of course, one state title.
This is success that local basketball fans for the last 20 years can only dream of.
Before I go any further, let me be clear that the current state of the Wolves program is, overall, good. The Wolves are playing a good brand of basketball and are churning out terrific citizens.
The consolidation of Elston and Rogers that formed Michigan City High School in 1995 was supposed to have produced a basketball superpower. As an Elston/MCHS student at the time, I can remember fear from around the state that two schools — very good on their own — were combining. The first few years after the consolidation, things weren't so bad. The late Bob "Bear Falls racked up a respectable 81-46 record, though that sectional title proved elusive.
Part of that drought, make no mistake, was due to the introduction of class basketball. In 1966, for instance, Elston beat St. Mary's, La Porte and South Central for the sectional title. That's a far cry from the Crown Point-Chesterton-Valparaiso route the Wolves would have had to travel this past season.
But, the talk of the town from a basketball perspective these days is that MCHS has now gone 0-for-20 in post-consolidation sectionals.
While that's a shame, I introduce all this to make a different point. We can talk until we're blue in the face about the reasons for this and the reasons for that. But, hopefully, the lesson here is to never take success for granted while it's happening. Whether it's the 1960s Elston Red Devils, the 1990s Chicago Bulls, the Marquette volleyball team of the 2000s or even the current Marquette boys basketball team, it's important to remember that success, for the most part, is fleeting.
If you find yourself as the fan of a team or program that goes on a long run of winning, savor every moment. From talking for years to area basketball fans who remember the "hey day" of Michigan City basketball, it sounds like they did enjoy it. They speak in feverish tones of packed gymnasiums, long lines for season tickets and the celebrity status of high school basketball players.
When Michigan City basketball again starts piling up hardware — yes, "when" — recall the lessons of the past. Enjoy it. Participate in it.
You never know, it might be 50 years before it all happens again.
Contact Managing Editor Adam Parkhouse at email@example.com or 1-219-214-4170.