PLYMOUTH — It almost seems like the wrong word to call Joel Grindle the “new” Plymouth head basketball coach.
This is actually Grindle’s fourth stop in Plymouth.
In the first one as a student-athlete at PHS, he was a key element of a very good run of Plymouth teams on the gridiron as well as the hardwood.
“I was fortunate enough to play with a lot of like-minded guys who just loved to play and loved to win,” said Grindle. “I think we all felt like we played on some pretty good teams.”
It was also a group like many others in the history of Plymouth athletics that embodied the team quality of being there for each other.
“Basketball was always my first love and actually my freshman year I wasn’t going to go out for football,” said Grindle. “But you had friends that played football and you supported them. It might not be your thing but you were there for your friends. Honestly, that ’98 Rockies team may be one of the most fun teams I was ever part of.”
That team was 12-2 and fell to Concord in the semi-state round.
Familiar with the attitude of “being there for each other” it’s something that he wants to make sure continues.
“We had a lot of those three-sport athlete guys and I want to see that,” said Grindle. “I want to see our point guard playing quarterback on the football team or a middle linebacker setting screens in our offense.”
Playing for Jack Edison Grindle and his teammates made two straight semi-state appearances and never lost a sectional game.
“I remember growing up and going to all the games as a kid and then having a chance to play for Coach (Jack) Edison,” he said. “I still consider him to be one of the greatest coaches ever. I really don’t know what would have happened to me if I hadn’t had sports in my life. It’s made me what I am.”
From there it was on to Bethel University to sort out his future.
“Part of playing at Bethel is you work the camps,” said Grindle. “I loved working with the kids and the relationships that I was able to build with them and my sophomore year I decided I was going to be a teacher.”
He then returned to his alma mater a second time to teach and work the sidelines at Plymouth as an assistant coach.
“I call that ‘The Randy Davis’ era,” said Grindle. “I still talk to Randy. That was a very special time. (five straight regional titles between 2005-08, two semi-state titles, and a state title in 2007). That was another group of guys that were always there for each other and just wanted to win.”
Grindle also learned some valuable lessons.
“I owe so much to Coach Edison not just as a player but as a mentor,” said Grindle. “He and his staff gave me things to do and let me have responsibilities as just a young guy. I learned a lot at that time.”
From there Grindle started his head coaching career at Argos.
“It was really kind of a weird thing,” said Grindle. “I had just married Jenni (then Faulstich) and we were on our honeymoon and I get a call to interview at Argos for a head coaching job.”
“That was a really good team and we had a great couple of years at Argos,” he said. “It was there too that, as an assistant, you think being a head coach is easy. At Argos, I learned that your players need you for more than just basketball.”
From there the job at North Montgomery opened up and Joel took the opportunity to move to the school near Crawfordsville.
“I had a friend from high school, Pete Osterman, who taught down there and he always talked about how great a school it was and how beautiful it was,” said Grindle. “We visited and the facilities were great, the school was great so we made the move.”
The first year was a stressful one for the young family.
“That first year there was some turmoil, that was the year our twins were born,” he said. “They were three months premature so they spent a lot of time at Riley Hospital.”
“That meant that those first few months I was gone from the team a lot, going Riley’s after practice, driving down after games so I could spend time them.”
“The program had a short dry spell on talent and we had a rough couple of years but the last two years I was there we won 14 and 15 games,” said Grindle. “We had our third child and we just felt it was time to get back home closer to family.”
Grindle’s third stay at Plymouth was a short one as Ryan Bales assistant with an administrators job opening at Tippecanoe Valley, and though his time as a Viking was also a good one, taking over the program that he says really shaped who he is, was something he couldn’t pass up.
“I feel like I have to be one of the luckiest guys in the world,” he said. “Standing on the same sidelines as coaches like Steve Yoder and coach Edison, and Ryan Bales.”
“I consider Ryan a great friend and having coached with him I think I have a good perspective of what he saw and what he wanted to accomplish,” said Grindle. “The fact is we have a group of great kids who are willing to put the work in that it’s going to take.”
As you might expect with a coach so familiar with what it means to play Plymouth basketball, some things will not change.
“I know other coaches will be reading this but don’t think I’m giving anything away,” said Grindle. “We’re going to run the ‘open’ offense, we are going to play a switching man defense. Fans of old school Plymouth basketball will recognize it.”
“I think they (the players) have that ‘pride of Plymouth’ but they have to really understand what that means,” he said. “It’s a special kind of toughness. You don’t care about the other team’s talent or what they are doing, you get after them and you find a way. You never give up, and that’s where we will start.”
“My goal obviously is to win any and all games that we play, but this senior class has a great opportunity to lay a groundwork to keep the legacy going,” said Grindle. “We have to see improvement every game. We are going to do what we do and play Plymouth basketball.”