By Nicole Minier
CHURUBUSCO — Joining the Churubusco community was one of the most life-changing decisions Chris Paul has made.
Last year’s new basketball coach is now the school’s athletic director.
Just over a year ago, Paul was released as the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne women’s basketball head coach. At that time, he faced a wide range of emotions.
“When you spend 15 years at one place and all of the sudden they go in a different direction, you have all kinds of emotions,” Paul said. “I was angry, confused, disappointed, scared, embarrassed — you really don’t know what’s happening.”
After giving it some thought, Paul decided he would try to be a high school boys basketball coach somewhere. When the position in Churubusco opened up, he applied and was picked for the job. At the time, he didn’t know the positive impact it would have on his family.
“It was tough for us a little over a year ago, and this place gave us a home,” Paul said.
Paul’s oldest son, Jalen, was a senior basketball star at Canterbury High School, and decided to switch to Churubusco to play for his father. Paul’s younger children, Jackson and Jersey, also changed schools to Smith Green Community School Corp.
Paul led the Eagles’ basketball team to the school’s first ever sectional championship, a feat in its own, but he’s even more excited about the opportunity his new career has given him as a father and husband.
As a Division I head coach, Paul traveled often and worked evenings and weekends. Now, he’s always off on Sundays, and drives his children to school every morning with him. He’s even able to have lunch with them every day.
“When I look back on it, I know this change was a blessing,” Paul said. “I’ve always been a believer that things happen for a reason, but now I’m 100 percent positive that I wasn’t supposed to be at IPFW anymore — I was supposed to be here. Everything is falling into place better than I could ask for.”
After former athletic director Paul Sade stepped down from the athletic director position, Paul decided to throw his hat in the ring. Although Paul didn’t have direct experience as an athletic director, his role as a Division I coach was similar — balancing budgets, athletic paperwork, being in charge of a program.
“I felt like I was prepared for it and I looked at it as stepping outside of my normal box of being a basketball coach,” Paul said. “I was excited about the challenge and I feel very fortunate they felt like I could do this job.”
SGCS Superintendent Dan Hile said he is especially impressed with the passion and dedication Paul brings.
“It is important that he knows what it takes to lead our athletic program,” Hile said. “When he joined us as basketball coach last year, he was committed right off the bat. All three of his kids moved to our district and it’s awesome having them here. They’ve been super involved in all of our programs.”
Hile said Paul leads by example and works hard.
“The phrase he uses a lot — ‘I’m all in’ — he expects it of his players and he expects it of himself,” Hile said.
When Paul came to Churubusco last basketball season, he told the community his goal was to win a sectional championship.
“Most people probably didn’t think the sectional would happen so fast, but he told the boys that was his goal,” Hile said.
Paul said the transition has been smooth, especially with the assistance of former AD Paul Sade and athletic secretary Shonda Hogeston, who are all just steps from his office.
Sade has returned to his teaching position and continues as ’Busco’s head football coach.
“Coach Sade is three steps down the hall from me,” Paul said. “Without him and Shonda, the transition would not be so smooth.”
It’s still a learning experience for Paul. He noted two important things he’s learned so far:
“You never run out of singles in the ticket booth and you never run out of Mountain Dew in the concession stand,” Paul joked.
Paul loves how accepting and helpful the Churubusco community has been to his family.
“Everyone around here is so willing to go out of their way to help,” Paul said. “If I had a nickel for every time someone offered to help, I could have retired already.”
Now, he wants to give back. Paul looks at his new position as an opportunity to help students and athletes — an area he has much experience in.
“When some talk to me about the issues they’re having, in most cases, I’ve been through similar things,” Paul said. “I can share my experiences with them — what worked and what didn’t work. I’m looking forward to helping them.”
More than helping coaches and players, he wants to continue to be part of the community.
“It’s not just winning basketball games,” Paul said. “I wanted this job because I felt like I could help more people. I want to be involved in the community. I owe it to the town to give back.”