Legendary Wabash hoops coach retiring

Mac Petty is retiring after 35 years as Wabash head coach.

Eric Yutzy/Eyewitness News

Crawfordsville - This weekend, the Wabash Little Giants honored their four-year basketball players. But the most attention went to a tall, slender, talented senior citizen.

If you're looking for a multimillion dollar arena, a million dollar coach and a ticket price to match, don't look here. Wabash College has a gym with a seating capacity of about 1,700, a regular season ticket that costs nothing - yes, it's free - and a retiring coach who is priceless.

"Like a father figure," said senior Ben Burkett. "Probably one of the best men I've met in my life."

"A great father figure to me," said senior Wes Smith, from Lawrence North.

That man is Mac Petty, who has coached basketball at Wabash for 35 years. He was on the sidelines well before his current players were born.

"I don't feel like I'm 65. I walk out on the basketball court and I see those faces and my whole attitude changes, because of their smile and they're ready to go," Petty said. "That's what kept me young."

Petty won the Division III national title in 1982 during his relative coaching infancy, but he never left Crawfordsville. Now that Petty is stepping away at season's end, it's only appropriate that the floor at his home court will bear his name.

"It's a tribute to him and to what he's meant to this basketball program for 35 years. He's the reason it's been so successful," said former player Chris Denari.

"To leave a place after 35 years, to go out on your own terms, to say, 'I've coached long enough, I've been here long enough,' I'm thrilled for him that he gets to do that," said former player Pete Metzelaars.

His former players say readiness was one sure thing about Petty.

"One thing I think about is how prepared we were," Denari said.

"You're prepared for the game. Prepared like it's the most important game of all," Metzelaars said.

Yet Petty hasn't completely finalized his post-coaching game plan.

"I haven't really thought about it," Petty said.

Though there are a couple of things he wants to do. First, to take care of his longest-serving assistant, his wife of 44 years, Gloria.

"I won't live long enough to repay her, but I'm going to try to do what I can," Petty said.

The second thing Petty wants to do is to be coached. It seems like he's still searching for his own scouting report.

"If you want to find yourself, lose yourself in the service of others. When this is over with, I think I know who I am, but I'm going to try to help people," Petty said.


Mac Perry has already turned countless Little Giants into men.