Led Red Devils to state championship
After posting a dismal 8-20 record during the 2011-12 season, Owensboro High School boys basketball coach Rod Drake knew there would be some naysayers.
But as an Owensboro graduate who led the school to the 1980 state championship as a player, Drake knew how to handle them.
“I went to school here and played here, and I know we’re spoiled,” he said. “Every year we throw it up, we expect to go to Rupp. I was prepared for this.”
Times have been better for Drake and the Red Devils since then, and now they’re reaching a peak. After leading Owensboro to the state championship last month, Drake has been named The Courier-Journal’s statewide Coach of the Year.
“I’m no smarter now than I was then,” Drake said. “It’s just all about talent. I’ve seen some bad Owensboro teams. But we knew this group was coming along.”
Drake received 13 votes from the 78 coaches from around the state who returned ballots to The C-J. Knott County Central’s B.B. King was the runner-up with 11 votes, followed by Ballard’s Chris Renner (10), Henderson County’s Tyler Smithhart (nine) and Lincoln County’s Jeff Jackson (six).
Drake is the second coach from Owensboro to win the honor, joining Bobby Watson in 1980. The Watson-coached Red Devils won the state title in 1980, and Drake was a senior guard on that squad. Drake is the first person in Kentucky to win boys basketball state titles as a player and a coach at the same school.
“It’s been everything I envisioned it would be, especially for these kids,” Drake said of the days since winning the state title. “They’ve been paraded around and honored. … This just solidifies everything I told these guys.”
Owensboro lost 61-55 to Apollo in the Ninth District championship game before reeling off seven straight victories. The Red Devils beat 2014 state champion Covington Catholic 69-65 in overtime in the Sweet 16 semifinals before knocking off Bowling Green 74-58 in the championship game.
The Red Devils were led by a pair of senior big men in 6-foot-9 Aric Holman (15.9 ppg) and 6-7 Justin Miller (16.4 ppg). Holman has committed to Hargrave Military Academy with the hopes of later joining an NCAA Division I program. Miller announced his commitment to Coppin State on Thursday.
“If you take Holman and Miller out, where would we be?” Drake said. “I don’t care what anybody says. If you don’t have talent, you can’t win.”
Drake was talented himself, playing four seasons at Kentucky Wesleyan and one season with the Louisville Catbirds of the Continental Basketball Association. He later played two seasons in the Netherlands before returning to Owensboro and getting a job with the Boys & Girls Club.
He joined Michael Stinnett’s staff at Owensboro as an assistant in 2000 before becoming the head coach in 2008. Drake said he considers Stinnett – now the boys basketball coach at Beth Haven – his best friend.
Drake, who has a 127-79 record in seven seasons at Owensboro, knows expectations will be lower next season as the Red Devils will lose five of their top six scorers to graduation. But he said he won’t lose hope.
“I’m always going to be a Red Devil man,” he said. “The potential is there. We just have to keep them focused and keep working. … We probably had enough talent at Owensboro in the 80s and mid-90s to win four or five championships. But it wasn’t until 35 years later that we finally did it. You can’t take anything for granted.”
PAST COURIER-JOURNAL BOYS BASKETBALL COACHES OF THE YEAR
1946 — Bobby Laughlin, Breckinridge Training; 1947 — Earle Jones, Maysville; 1948 — McCoy Tarry, Brewers; 1949 — Letcher Norton, Clark County; 1950 — Ralph Carlisle, Lafayette.
1951 — Dale Barnstable, Manual; 1952 — Norton, Clark County; 1953 — George Conley, Ashland; 1954 — Delmas Gish, Central City; 1955 — John Burr, Adair County; 1956 — Bill Carter, Heath; 1957 — John Bill Trivette, Pikeville; 1958 — Norton, Clark County; 1959 — Charlie Lampley, North Marshall; 1960 — Jim Morris, Flaget.
1961 — Bob Wright, Ashland; 1962 — Elmer “Baldy” Gilb, Henry Clay; 1963 — Morton Combs, Carr Creek; 1964 — Gene Rhodes, Male; 1965 — Bill Harrell, Shelby County; 1966 — Harrell, Shelby County; 1967 — Bob Fox, Earlington; 1968 — Jim Richards, Glasgow; 1969 — Bob Graves, Louisville Central; 1970 — Gary Schaffer, Pleasure Ridge Park.
1971 — Jack Upchurch, Anderson County; 1972 — Ray Vencil, Elizabethtown; 1973 — Bob Barlow, Bryan Station; 1974 — Graves, Central; 1975 — Wade Houston, Male; 1976 — Richard Schmidt, Ballard; 1977 — Schmidt, Ballard; 1978 — Wayne Chapman, Apollo; 1979 — Charles “Jock” Sutherland, Lafayette; 1980 — Bobby Watson, Owensboro.
1981 — Barlow, Bryan Station; 1982 — Allen Feldhaus Sr., Mason County; 1983 — Craynor Slone, Carlisle County; 1984 — Gerald Sinclair, Logan County; 1985 — Glenn Collie, Seneca; 1986 — Feldhaus Sr., Mason County; 1987 — Bobby Keith, Clay County; 1988 — Keith, Clay County; 1989 — Keith, Clay County; 1990 — Gary French, Elizabethtown.
1991 — Nolan Barger, Tates Creek; 1992 — Danny Haney, Lexington Catholic; 1993 — Tim Davis, Marion County; 1994 — Billy Hicks, Corbin; 1995 — Gary Moore, Franklin County; 1996 — Curtis Turley, Greenwood; 1997 — Haney, Lexington Catholic; 1998 — Haney, Lexington Catholic; 1999 — Ernie Simpson, Bowling Green; 2000 — Jimmy Just, Iroquois.
2001 — Bryce Hibbard, Male; 2002 — Rodney Woods, Wayne County; 2003 — Kelly Wells, Mason County; 2004 — Wells, Mason County; 2005 — Mike Szabo, Trinity; 2006 — Buddy Biggs, Pendleton County; 2007 — Billy Hicks, Scott County; 2008 — Champ Ligon Jr., Bryan Station; 2009 — Jason Booher, Shelby Valley; 2010 — Szabo, Trinity.
2011 — Wayne Breeden, Tates Creek; 2012 – Allen Feldhaus Jr., Madison Central; 2013 – Feldhaus Jr., Madison Central; 2014 – Scott Ruthsatz, Covington Catholic.