Jimmie Howell retires as Lapel’s basketball coach – parents need to back off before more good coaches pack a box

Jimmie Howell is no longer coaching basketball at Lapel High School, and that makes the game a little bit less special.

Every time a high school coach retires or simply quits, I wince.

I assume the cause has something to do with nattering parents, whose love of their children is matched only by their ignorance of the sport their kids play.  Coaches being forced to deal with this well-intentioned rabble is the chief cost of trying to help kids learn the two invaluable lessons that come from competing – how to overcome adversity and the joy of bonding to achieve a collective goal.  Both are crucial toward living as a productive adult, and sports are a great lever toward that result.

Parents, sadly, are unaware that adversity should be embraced rather than avoided.  Many pull strings, yelp, and cause a ruckus when their sons and daughters are exposed to it.  Coaches try to avoid the inevitable meetings about playing time by telling parents they are willing to discuss anything BUT playing time.

When I read that Lapel basketball coach Jimmie Howell chose to retire four games into the current season after 40 years of teaching his players life lessons through competing at Indiana’s game, my head fell into my hands and I muttered, “Not again.”

Then I read his quotes in the Anderson Herald-Bulletin about the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame member leaving, and there was no doubt the cause of his decision.  “Friday morning, some things occurred that, I just knew it was time.  I told my wife, ‘Tonight’s going to be my last ballgame.’ It just felt — it was time. It kind of happened the way people told me it would happen…When I was younger, my skin was quite a bit thicker than it is now.  As you get older, not only does our skin get physically thinner on us but emotionally as well. It’s just part of it. It’s part of the pressures you have to deal with on a daily basis.”

Oh boy.  Howell didn’t specifically identify parents as the reason he’s leaving a vocation that he loved through four decades, but what else could it be?  Who other than parents could wear out a coach “on a daily basis?”

As the parent of a former high school and college basketball player, I get it.  Nobody sees a son or daughter as parents do – and should.  Don’t coaches understand that son or daughter is the most important person in the world with a bouquet of gifts ready to be unleashed if the coach would just see the obvious?  That question is rhetorical, but the answer if you need one is “NO!”

The tragedy is that coaches who got into the business because of a love for their game and the lessons it can instill are being driven from it by parents who don’t understand that adversity is the magic bean for developing maturity.  Time on the bench is supposed to motivate a kid to practice harder, not parents to schedule a meeting.

And so another really good and caring coach is driven away, while parents likely try to get Howell’s replacement to see that one of the 10 all-time winningest coaches in Indiana High School Basketball history was a dolt for not seeing their son’s talent.  Yep, it seems the guy who led two teams to state championship was blind to the unique greatness of each and every individual on his current team.

Instead of reading a book in the stands like parents used to, they now work behind the scenes to litigate opportunities for their progeny.  Understanding that lessons learned are far more important than on-court/field accomplishment is beyond the capabilities of today’s mothers and fathers.  They want to manage their kids through a gentle and joyous adolescence, rather than prepare teen for the harsh realities of adulthood.

There are plenty of good parents out there, but the noisemakers are wrecking the experiences of coaches to the point that they are packing a box and leaving the bench for good.  High school basketball in Lapel was more special with Jimmie Howell in it.  Ironically, what was so good for a bunch of kids has ended because of the people who claim they want only the best for them.

It’s tragic that there are dozens of kids Howell won’t teach because of a few parents, but it’s a blessing for all of those he was able to impact – including his son J.R., who is a chip off the old block as Zionsville High School’s basketball coach.

If you are a sports parent and really want the best for your son or daughter, do your job and let coaches do theirs.  By the way, your job is to love your children.  The coach is there to help them dig a little deeper, try a little harder, and give a little bit more so the team can compete to its potential.

23 thoughts on “Jimmie Howell retires as Lapel’s basketball coach – parents need to back off before more good coaches pack a box

  1. Steve Clark

    Parents can ruin most sports!!

    It’s embarrassing how some parents act!!
    They seem to be experts at their kids particular sport!!
    Some never played and if they did they weren’t any good!!

    Support your child in his/her sport but leave the coaching to the coaches!!

    1. Lapel Fan

      Wasn’t just parents though. Players from the past 16 years at Lapel found him to be unapproachable and lacking positive relationships with players.

      1. T. Atkins

        Sad to hear this, That’s why kids are soft and emotional. mommy and daddy going to sons job and ask the boss to be nice. We need more jimmy howells leading our boys to become men. Become a winner, don’t worry there will always be some watered down AAU team to play for.

  2. take a second and do some research

    Seems odd you would write an entire article on an assumption. Your opinion is fine although not well supported but to blame parents of current players on your assumption seems irresponsible. No I do not have a son on the team.

  3. Brandi

    Why is it that in the past our coaches were not held accountable, but yet a teacher is held to a very high standard to work around kids? Why is it that I’m told that as a teacher not everyone learns the same, and because I am the teacher I need to adapt to different styles of teaching to help my students learn. Why has it not been the same for coaches? Why in our culture with sports do we think we can say, do, and behave the way we want just because we are called coach. Why are we assuming this was all about parents, and not about an individual willing to take responsibility for their actions, words, and behaviors? Because it’s a lot easier to blame the parents especially when all the outsiders can see is a two time state championship behind someones name. We just assume.

    I’m happy for coach because I for one feel that he lost his love for the game, and students. It’s been on the decline since 2016. I pray that he can enjoy time with his family, and not be bound to something that was no longer making him happy. Life is too short to not do things that you no longer have a love for.

    I am thankful to the coaching staff that the program has been handed down to. These coaches will serve the boys, and community well. They all have a love for the game.

    1. Me

      Can you give an exact example of your question? “Why are we assuming this was all about parents, and not about an individual willing to take responsibility for their actions, words, and behaviors? ”

  4. Zach Bills

    I really wish he would have never left Mt. Vernon. As a child he would pick me up every morning and take me to Muncie along with JR and we would watch those practices and play on side goals. Jimmy put a lot of time and care into my game and how I conducted myself while playing it. All I wanted to do was play for him, almost would have been a dream come true. For any school to lose this man as a coach is suffering a huge loss.

  5. Jimmy Jack

    Coach threw my letter from recruiters in his trash. Luckily a fellow student noticed them and handed them to me. Probably cost me thousands in tuition if I could have afforded it and he did this to other players also. He even benched a starter once when Ball State cane to watch him. What lowlife does this? I can find 20 players in 10 minutes with stories like this.

  6. Old School

    Jimmie gave so much to the Lapel community and basketball program. What a shame to see him leave in the middle of the season. To think that he left on his own terms is a half-truth. Did you ever stop to think what might have transpired that Friday morning? Perhaps yet another unhappy parent weighing in? Or maybe something with more teeth that stung pretty deep (quite likely a response due to these parents again)? The paltry applause during the Guerin Catholic game, when the announcer was expressing the school’s congratulations and admiration regarding his accomplishments and abrupt retirement was embarrassing.

    In large part, it was the parents. We see you. You may not have liked how he treated your son, but his job was not to make friends with these kids. Maybe some day when they truly grow up, they will look back and see what Jimmie was trying to do – to begin turning these boys into men. Someone has to do it.

    I hope that interim coach Coomer and his staff have the will to withstand this pressure and continue the great tradition of Lapel basketball. Unfortunately, he and his staff don’t have 2 state championships on their resume’. Time will tell.

  7. Why

    Riddle me this, trolls: why did countless kids, including the current 3 seniors and majority of juniors come and play for Jimmie when they don’t even live in the Lapel school district? If he’s such and ogre, send your kids to the school where you live – Anderson or Noblesille. But nope, they stayed through all the horrifying drama year after year. That doesn’t make any sense. Maybe some of these players are spoiled, selfish little shits that can’t handle anything but praise. Great job mom and dad. Everyone gets a trophy!

  8. Former Lapel player

    Kent, it’s obvious you never played basketball for this guy & if you did you were probably one of the players kissing his ass!!! “I know what I know.” You know what I know Kent? I know you’re a phony fuck! Don’t speak out on shit you don’t know about!

    1. Ok

      Enlighten us, former player. Question 1: do you live in Lapel or did your parents drive you there to play because you couldn’t cut it in Anderson or Noblesville? Q2: fill us all in on your insider knowledge. What were practices like?. Inquiring minds want to know!


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