By Nicole Minier
WOODBURN — At the start of the season, coach Chris Paul had no history in Churubusco. After Saturday night’s sectional title win over Eastside, coach Paul will go down in the record books.
Paul moved to the area last fall after he accepted the head boys basketball coach position. Just seven months later, Paul etched his name into the history books of Churubusco, helping the team to its first-ever title — 99 years after the school first entered the sectional tournament.
After he heard Churubusco was one of the few schools in the state without a sectional title, Paul quickly made that is goal.
“I knew we had all the pieces, but it was going to take some time,” Paul said. The regular season didn’t necessarily treat the Eagles well. ’Busco started with an 0-3 record and later went on to 8-7. “Now, we’ve won nine out of the last 10, to some really good teams,” Paul said. “We’re playing the best we can and at the right time.”
Paul knew winning a sectional title was important to the community, but he hadn’t realized how important it was until after Saturday night’s win over Eastside in the title game at Woodlan. “People are coming up to me, telling me stories of how much they wanted to win one,” Paul said. “People are hugging and crying — it’s a cool thing.”
Paul, whose contract as IPFW’s head women’s coach wasn’t renewed this time last year, said from the moment he came to town for his interview with athletic director Paul Sade, he knew it was the place for him.
“I went through a tough time after my contract wasn’t renewed,” Paul said. “I felt like a failure and that I had let people down.”
Paul was released as the head coach after 10 seasons with the Mastadons.
“When I left my interview in Churubusco, I called my wife and said, ‘I like that man (Paul Sade), and I feel like home.’”
And home it has been for the Paul family. “I have been welcomed and my family has been welcomed since day one,” Paul said. “It just says a lot about this town — how tight we are as a group.”
As many former coaches enjoy talking about the old days and successful teams, Paul said he looks forward to doing the same.
“Years from now I hope coach Sade and I will be sitting there, talking about this team,” Paul said. “Maybe we’ll be talking about a regional championship. Maybe a state appearance. I’m not convinced we’re done yet. There’s something about this team.”
Sade, who is also the school’s head football coach, said he’s enjoyed watching the team grow, and seeing the work Paul has put into the program. “We’ve been happy with him ever since the first day when he decided to accept the position and bring his kids here and make his family part of our community,” Sade said. “He’s at every game and has started a youth program, something he’s passionate about. We’re all pretty excited to still be playing basketball in March.” Sade said Churubusco has had excellent basketball teams in the past, but none have known how to finish in the postseason. “In the past, it’s been hard for the kids to understand they have to play different in the tournament,” Sade said. “I’m really proud of our guys and happy for them, they did a great job.”
Churubusco had a team in the 1950s that finished with a 22-2 record — but didn’t win a sectional title. Glenn Bonar has been following Churubusco basketball since before that time, and was excited to witness his grandson, Brayton, and the rest of the team get the win. If you’re at a Churubusco basketball game, you can almost always find Dave Pearson at the scorers table. He graduated from Churubusco in 1989 and is an avid Eagle athletics fan. “I’ve been behind the scenes and saw the focus and dedication of these guys,” Pearson said. “You could tell in that last third of the season that this was the year it was going to happen — they wanted it.
“I’ve been around ’Busco for a long time. This is good for the community and excellent for the boys and the school.”
Whitley County Commissioner and Churubusco resident Don Amber tore his hamstring a week before the sectional title game. He wasn’t able to venture out of the house since his injury — that is, until the title game. “Nothing was going to keep me home,” Amber said. “I just had a feeling. This was the year I thought we had a good chance.”
Amber has been following Churubusco basketball since 1956. The Eagles travel to North Judson for an 11 a.m. game. See pages 8 and 9 for more information. North Judson is on central time. The game begins at 11 a.m. eastern time, 10 a.m. central time.