This happened in the last 12 months: Purdue University coaching legend Gene Keady told me the awful truth behind his awful combover. Shortridge High School basketball star Various Wilson told me how he went from homeless to graduation. And my dear friend Maureen Burakiewicz showed me how to live with Lou Gehrig’s disease — and on May 6 she showed me how to die with dignity.
One year after the IndyStar hired me on Oct. 20, 2014, here’s an update on some of the stories that seemed to resonate the most with you.
Gene Keady told me he’s been mocked by Bob Knight since that combover story ran in November. He also says he’s retired for good — well, sort of — after spending the past five years as a special assistant to St. John’s coach Steve Lavin. Keady and his wife, Kathleen, live in Myrtle Beach, S.C., though Keady travels to speak at Purdue alumni events. He says the reaction to that column has been an avalanche of good-natured ribbing from friends, including ex-Indiana University rival Knight, who he says “ripped me real good.”
Kyle Castner, who led Ben Davis to the Class 6A state title, threw for 3,410 yards (18th in state history) and ranked 10th in his high school class of 1,019, apparently wasn’t good enough for college football when I wrote about him and his awkward throwing motion in December. Since then Columbia started recruiting him, signed him — and redshirted him after he suffered a torn ACL this fall. Castner told me his biggest change was adapting to New York City, “but now that I’m used to it, it’s amazing. It’s a five-minute subway ride to Times Square, and I watch Ben Davis games every week online.”
Not such a great update about Various Wilson. And it starts so well, too: Signing in August with Cincinnati State reunited him with his mother. She had moved to Cincinnati during his senior season, which led to his homelessness as a Shortridge student. But Wilson is no longer practicing with the Cincinnati State basketball team, and while a school official told me the door remains open to his return, the school isn’t sure of Wilson’s status. Or his whereabouts.
Pate Thomerson, the charming Western Boone High senior who won a prestigious Evans Scholarship through the Evans caddy program, reported this fall to IU. She majors in business and made me promise to quote her saying this: “I’m extremely thankful to the (Western Golf Association) — they changed my life.”
Remember Albert Hendrix? Lebanon High basketball coach, stubborn mule who underwent quadruple bypass surgery and still was with his team to start October practice, eight weeks after the massive heart attack that should have killed him. His team won its first sectional championship in 13 years — and Hendrix remains stubborn. In midseason, his gall bladder started acting up. Doctors wanted to remove it. Hendrix refused. Kept coaching. Mule.
Speaking of Lebanon …
Legendary scorer Rick Mount and I never did shoot together, though I did finally find him at — of all places — his home in Lebanon, where he surprised me in his driveway. Mount, estranged for years from Lebanon High and Purdue, will be honored this season at a Purdue game with a bobblehead night, though Mount hasn’t decided to attend. Meanwhile, the Mount family gulf with Lebanon widens: His grandson, a sweet-shooting senior named Jordan Mount, has transferred to Traders Point Christian Academy in Whitestown.
My man Grumps (and Grandma), the gun-toting grammarian who befriended me shortly after I was hired and took me into his family, still packs a pistol around his house. A recent tumble left him with a broken orbital bone and double vision in one eye. If an intruder tries to break into his house, he figures he’ll shoot both of them.
After the story in September about ex-Colts player and current Park Tudor coach Orlando Lowry, readers from ages 19-80 responded, offering to give him a kidney. A competing high school coach — and his wife — offered a kidney. So did a Park Tudor colleague, a former Park Tudor football player and even a former middle school track teammate of Lowry, 54. He’s on pace to get a kidney in December, most likely from his son Cameron, which makes what he heard from ex-Colts teammate Stan Eisenhooth so soothing: Living with one kidney is easily manageable, said Eisenhooth, who donated one to his own father years ago.
MMA fighter Andrew Holbrook, the self-described Mr. Mom who brings his tiny little kids to the gym where he trains, made his UFC debut a week after his story ran in July — and beat Ramsey Nijem.
Mooresville assistant baseball coach David Rose wasn’t in contact much with his brother — Pete Rose, heard of him? — until that story on David ran in May. Pete read it, reached out to David via text message, and “we’ve been in contact since,” David was telling me. Also: Mooresville went from 9-20 in Rose’s first year on staff in 2014 to 17-13 this season.
Cane-throwing Karl Turk, the 34-year-old Arlington grad who overcame a near-fatal childhood bout with transverse myelitis — it paralyzed him for months and left him walking with a cane — finished his first year as the head coach of West Oso (Texas) High with a 25-9 record, a third-round playoff appearance and district coach of the year honors. He’s finishing up his doctorate in education and educational leadership at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, which named him an Outstanding Islander after his story went from the pages of the IndyStar in January to national television: CBS featured him during its “Road to the Final Four” program in late March.
Speaking of Arlington …
Coach Dustin Oakley, who led Arlington from 0-21 in 2013-14 to 10-13 respectability last season — and newfound academic achievement — wasn’t interviewed to stay in his job when the school changed leadership and started its transition from a Class 1A magnet school to something much larger in Indianapolis Public School. Arlington athletics director Dan Wilson told me Oakley declined to interview because he didn’t want to leave his teaching job at Irvington Prep Academy. Oakley says that’s not true — he simply wasn’t given an interview, he says — and showed me a text conversation with Wilson that seems to back up that version. Whom to believe? You decide. But I can’t believe the man behind Arlington’s magical turnaround, on and off the court, is out of coaching six months later.
My friend Maureen Burakiewicz lived with ALS into early May, when she was hospitalized after her latest bout with pneumonia. She couldn’t speak, walk or eat, but she saw her daughter Ashleigh marry Brad Newbold on May 2 in the chapel at Community Hospital South. When her family told her they would be OK, that it was OK if she wanted to stop fighting — she had been fighting so damn cheerfully — her heart rate immediately dropped from 155 beats per minute to 130. She accepted their offer. She died May 4. Strongest woman I’ve ever known.
IndyStar readers responded to the story in August on U.S. 31 sign-holder Joshua Jones by bringing him hundreds of dollars, an offer for another job — he declined; he loves dancing with that sign in Greenwood — and a new Seattle Seahawks hat.
Aidan Duncan, a star in soccer and even baseball despite being born without his left hand, recently scored a hat trick for the local Dynamo FC under-13 team. This wonderful kid, who grew up idolizing one-handed former major-league pitcher Jim Abbott and now roots for Cardinals slugger Matt Carpenter, appeared a few weeks after the story ran in June on “Good Morning America” and was invited to St. Louis to meet Carpenter and got a call recently from an area code in California. “Hi, Aidan,” said Jim Abbott.
Sorry if I missed a story you would’ve liked to see here. So many local stories to update. So many more to write in the next 12 months.