Betten steps away from Clay head coaching position

Betten: “Really appreciate the kids”

By Kevin Colley -

In anything that we do in life, we want our loved ones to be right there with us, side by side, as we go through life.

However, there comes a time where taking a step back is necessary in order to be able to support one’s family in a greater light from a moral and spiritual standpoint.

After taking over a program that had gone 2-19 in the 2011-12 campaign, Clay head coach Adam Betten improved the program to a 5-19 mark a year later, then proceeded to embark on the most successful journey that any head coach at the school has had since the days of Clay head coaching legend Arch Justice by becoming the first head coach to accumulate four consecutive winning seasons at the school since Justice finished the final six seasons of his head coaching career (1978 to 1983) with winning marks.

The grind of coaching, and the late nights that come with it, however, can interfere with the most important parts that a male or a female will hold in this life — the roles of being an effective father and mother and husband or wife.

After six years coaching the Clay boys basketball program, Betten, who notched a 79-64 mark as the head coach of the Panthers, called it quits on Friday evening in an effort to spend more time with his loved ones.

While the man who brought Clay its first Division IV District Championship, and first regional final berth, in 48 years won’t soon be forgotten, the legacies that Betten wants to make sure that he upholds are the ones of the young men that he had the privilege of coaching during his time at the head of the boys basketball program.

“I feel like one of the main goals of mine was to make sure that these kids graduated and were quality kids that became better young men as they went through the program,” Betten said. “I believe that we were able to teach them life lessons that not only pertained to basketball, but were life lessons along the way, and I believe that the guys have taken those and ran with them.”

Success on the court, and the lessons that came with Betten’s style, developed quickly. After going 5-19 in his first season at the helm, Betten quickly improved Clay to a 12-10 mark in the 2013-14 campaign as guys such as Eldin Sarajlic, Mason Pelphrey, Michael Schmidt, and Adam Cooper, among others, came to the forefront.

Despite losing each of those individuals to graduation following the 2014 campaign, a new crop of players would rise to the top.

Four-year starter Nate Hinze, three-year starters Cameron King and Cole Gilliland, energy bug Anthony Williams, and three-and-D hand Caleb Cline ultimately contributed to a unit that went 60-14 from the 2014-15 to 2016-17 seasons en route to becoming the first group at Clay to win three consecutive SOC I Championships and three consecutive sectional crowns since the glory days of Arch Justice’s tenure, when the legendary coach won five straight conference titles in a row and six straight sectional championships between the 1965-66 to 1970-71 campaigns, all while finishing off four consecutive winning campaigns.

That same group ultimately led Clay to a 24-2 record, a Division IV District Championship, and a Division IV Regional Final berth, which again, marked the first time in 48 years that the Panthers obtained a district title and went to the regional finals.

“Coaching a player that was First-Team All-State in Cameron, and Cole, who’s playing college basketball and is a guy that graduated at the top of his class, and those things, and Nate being able to go on and play tennis at a higher level, among with all of the faces on that 2016-17 squad that made such an impact is something that I hope that the community will always remember, not only with the things that they did, but in the manner that they went about doing those things. They were very unselfish kids and a great group to coach.”

However, the off-field success that the Panthers have had have been the most special part, in Betten’s eyes.

Pelphrey, who garnered accolades in the classroom, will graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering after finishing up a four-year soccer career at Trine (Ind.) University. Sarajlic and Schmidt, who went to Wright State, will also graduate with mechanical engineering degrees. Gilliland graduated at the top of his class last year and just finished his freshman season on the hardwood at Kentucky Christian, while Hinze — another strong student — obtained an opportunity to play tennis at Shawnee State.

“That’s huge,” Betten said. “It’s just been a great group. Michael and Eldin are graduating from Wright State right now, and are going to be engineers, and for Cole to be No. 1 in his class and doing so well, that means more to me than anything. They really dedicated themselves to being student-athletes. Not only did they work in the classroom, but they also did well on the floor, and I’m extremely proud of them for that. They’re going to be successful in no matter what they do.”

However, it’s not just a select group of kids who are that way — and that makes Betten’s time at Clay all the more special.

“I feel like all of the kids that I’ve coached have been that way,” Betten said. “They’ve been a great group of kids who have really bought into the system. When I first started, we were 5-19. To be 19-5 and win the conference two years later was great. We’ve had our ups and downs, and we’ve gone through the growing pains together. One of the biggest things is to see some of those kids starting to graduate from college and get college degrees. That means a lot. A part of me hopes that they took something from their basketball experiences that helped on down the road.”

Much of that success, however, has at least something to do with how tight the units were. Throughout his six-season coaching stint at Clay, Betten held a Super Bowl party each season, and had mother-son banquets for his players.

The countless hours that you spend during practice and outside of game time is the time where those relationships are built, and that’s extremely important to me, not only with the players, but with the other coaches that I’ve been around. Those are relationships that will live forever.”

Overall, Betten’s tenure will ultimately go down as one of the most successful in school history. His mark of 79-64 only sits behind Justice (394-169) and Don Monk (120-41, Justice’s predecessor) of the 19 coaches that have led the Panthers onto the floor.

“What we accomplished was all what the kids did and put into it,” Betten said. “They were able to put me in that position. You can’t be put there without the kids buying into the gameplans and executing them successfully. They did a great job. Being able to win that many games is a credit to the guys that we had, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to coach them. Hopefully, the program will continue to be successful as it goes through the following years.”

Regardless of where the program goes from here, however, Betten can rest easy knowing that he did everything in his power to make everybody feel like a winner.

And that’s arguably why the results ended up as they did — especially during that special four-year run that hadn’t been seen in well over a generation.

“Seeing these seniors depart the program to further their careers, and then come back to mentor the kids below them each and every year, is special,” Betten said. “Making them feel welcome in the locker room was always something big for me. I really appreciate the work that they did for me, and we were able to win some games. They bought into the system in place, they continued to get better each and every year, and we were able to achieve some things that haven’t been done in a long time. They earned those wins. They did it. That’s what’s going to be the lasting impression for me.”
Betten: “Really appreciate the kids”

By Kevin Colley