Perhaps outside the state of Indiana, the name Damon Bailey has faded from memory. Even Damon Bailey understands this.
Yet nights such as Thursday bring Bailey back to all his memories of being one of the greatest high school players in the state’s history. Although Bailey doesn’t spend as much time in the public as he did during his playing career, he was pleased to share some of the spotlight during the Pacers’ home game against the Boston Celtics. The Pacers, as part of their Hickory Night celebration, honored Bailey for being the state’s all-time leading boys basketball scorer.
“Anytime that you can be a part of something like this, it’s a very humbling experience,” Bailey said before Thursday’s game. “For me, I don’t like doing a lot of these things and I don’t do many of these things, but I do think for me, I was able to recognize at an early age that I am who I am or I’m thought of the way I’m thought of is because of fans and you have a certain obligation to give back to that.”
Bailey, who is an assistant coach with the Butler women’s basketball team, will forever be known for leading Bedford North Lawrence High School to the state championship in 1990.
Bailey, of course, was mentioned by former Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight in the book “Season on the Brink” when Bailey was an eighth grader. He later starred at IU and had a brief pro career (though he did not play in an NBA regular-season game) after being selected by the Pacers. Back then, Bailey was the center of attention when it came to basketball in the state. Now, he enjoys everyone not recognizing him.
“The younger generation, maybe,” Bailey said when asked if any sports fan in the state isn’t aware of his accomplishments. He added: “They’ve heard stories or they’ve heard the name. Obviously, as you get older and you travel around, the recognition obviously isn’t what it once was, which at times is nice. It’s also there enough to make you feel good, and that part of it is nice as well.”
Brad Stevens, the Boston Celtics coach, found it to be a fitting coincidence that the Pacers honored Bailey when the Celtics were in town.
“As a kid growing up in the state of Indiana, one of the first names that comes up is Damon Bailey,” the former Butler coach said to reporters prior to Thursday’s game. “Breaking the scoring record, being talked about from eighth grade on … we were all paying attention to those achievements.”
Stevens watched Bailey’s state championship game — which drew 41,046 fans to the Hoosier Dome — on television. But Stevens noted he was a ballboy the following year — the grandfather of Stevens’ friend (and later Butler assistant), Michael Lewis, worked for the Indiana High School Athletic Association — when Glenn Robinson and Alan Henderson met for the title.
In Thursday’s game, Stevens coached against Robinson’s son, Glenn Robinson III.
Stevens maintains his ties to Butler. He checks the Butler schedule against his own each year as soon as it’s released and determines when he can see a game.
“First thing we do is crosscheck (Butler’s schedule) with ours,” he said. “They’re great. Great depth. Chris (Holtmann) is tremendous. It’s a blast to watch them. I only watch a couple teams (as a fan) and that’s the team at the top of the list. I try to watch them whenever I can. Anytime you can get to watch a game as a fan, it’s a heckuva lot more fun than when you’re standing on the sideline.”
Stevens attended Wednesday’s game against Vermont and also arranged to meet Josh Speidel.
“An inspiring kid,” Stevens said of Speidel, an Indiana All-Star who was seriously injured in a car accident. “I’m inspired by his journey. It’s always great (to get back to Indianapolis).”
Bailey still smiles when people in the state compare his style of scoring to that of Larry Bird, the Hall of Famer who won three championships with the Celtics and is now the Pacers president.
“Larry Bird was always my idol from a basketball standpoint,” Bailey said. “He played the game the way it was supposed to be played, in my opinion.”
As for his still-standing record, Bailey is confident his lasting mark as the most prolific scoring in the state’s history will remain for quite some time.
“Now looking back on it and all the records that you have and everything, they say records are meant to be broke,” Bailey said, “but I think that’s one that’s going to be very difficult to break.”
IndyStar editor Nat Newell contributed to this report. Call IndyStar reporter Nate Taylor at (317) 444-6484. Follow him on Twitter: @ByNateTaylor.
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Pacers at Bulls, 8 p.m. Monday, Fox Sports Indiana