Sports Column

BOONE: Darlington Basketball — The coach Nicholson days

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Dave Nicholson followed Galen Smith and put together back-to-back undefeated seasons in 1968-69 and 1969-70. Nicholson’s Indians won 46 games and lost only two during his tenure. They won the County tourney both years and defeated Speedway 56-54 to win the Lebanon Sectional in 1969.  The Indians won 41 regular season games without a loss under Coach Nicholson. In a four year span beginning at the end of the 1968 season continuing through Nicholson’s two years and concluding after three games of the 1970-71 season, the Indians won 49 consecutive regular season games.  During the last seven years of their existence, they won 113 games while losing only 41 under Galen Smith, Dave Nicholson and Gene Morrison.

It was under Hall of Fame coach Dave Nicholson that the Indians really terrorized the County. In two years, Nicholson led the Indians to two undefeated regular seasons going 24-1 in 1968-69 and 22-1 in 1969-70. After winning only one County Tourney in school history (1954), Darlington won their second County Crown in 1968 under Galen Smith. The Indians exploded in 1968 as Dave Nicholson led them to two straight County Championships making them the only county school besides New Market to win three straight County titles. The Purple Flyers did it in 1939, 1940, and 1941. The Indians won their only sectional in 1969 as they won the Lebanon sectional that year.

Nicholson had a career record of 402-171, coaching four undefeated teams at Darlington and Noblesville, averaged 16 wins per year, coached an Indiana All-Star and NBA player, past President of Indiana Coaches Association, won conference championships in five different conferences, IBCA district 11 Coach of the Year Three times, won 11 sectionals, received 16 Coach of the Year Awards.

Dave has fond memories if his two years at Darlington. 

“My years at Darlington were two of the most enjoyable years of my coaching career. We had 8 or 10 guys who could really play and they loved the game. If class basketball had been in effect, the Darlington teams would probably advanced a long way in the tournament and perhaps won a championship. There was never an empty seat in the house when we played. We led the state in margin of victory in the two years — our fans complained if we didn’t win by 25 points or more. I remember we beat Coal Creek by 10 points, and the next day people were asking, “What Happened!”   (The fact is that the Indians scored over 100 points six times that year. The highest was 126-63 over Ladoga. They averaged 89.5 points per game and gave up only 55.5 for an average winning margin of 34 points, (best in the state).

I have stayed in touch with many of the players from the two teams I coached at Darlington. I am very proud of what they have done with their lives. The late Gren Lefebvre was an unpaid assistant during my 2 years at Darlington, and he was great with kids and became a life-long friend of mine. Another person that was an important part of our team was our team bus driver Bill Dale. We always thought of him as a member of the staff.

I also coached the JV both years and they only lost one game in two years. The night we lost the JV game, I held Terry Cain out because Gary Dale had burned his hand and it was questionable if he would play — as it turned out Gary Dale scored 25 points that night and I cost the JV a perfect record by holding Terry out of the JV game. 

My Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame has a “Red” set in it in honor of Darlington. Without the two years at Darlington, I’m not sure that I would have been a career coach. Lots of GREAT memories from Darlington! There were many outstanding players: Threlkeld, Douglas, Nichols, Dale, Lehe, Wright, Warren, Cain, Tribbett, Weliever, Gable, Hole, Emmert, Apple, Waye, Mahoy, Maxwell and several others.”

Nicholson spent the biggest part of his career at Noblesville after leaving Darlington, coaching the Millers for sixteen years and leading them to eight sectional championships on the way to a record of 255-144. They were undefeated in 1984. He was inducted into the Noblesville High School of fame in 2013.

Bill Boone is a local sports historian who contributes to the Journal Review.

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