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He comes highly recommended from Purdue coach Matt Painter and from Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin, and former Bellmont standout varsity coach Shaun Busick chimed in with his support. He's John Baker, who will likely be one of the youngest head boys basketball coaches in the state of Indiana next year when he jumps from his jayvee post of one year to top spot in the program at Bellmont High.
Bellmont athletic director Dale Manis, who was an assistant coach for Busick when Baker came off the bench to spark Bellmont's state runner-up team in 2004, also is effusive on the appropriateness of this hire, which has been rumored for weeks.
"Of course, this is pending (school) board approval, but John is the guy we're recommending," stated Manis. The Bellmont school board will meet Tuesday. Manis and Principal Scott Croner will recommend Baker for the boys basketball post, and current Lapel football coach Nate Andrews for the football post.
"People are going to question his experience, and wonder if it is too early for John to be a head coach. But with the experience he's had and the maturity beyond his years that he possesses ... well, we feel comfortable with the choice. John is going to be an excellent and enthusiastic leader of the Bellmont boys basketball program," said Manis.
“It’s always been my goal to be a teacher and coach to kids the North Adams,” said Baker.
“This is the job I wanted. The opportunity came along a little quickly, but I feel i’m prepared.”
Manis admitted that there weren't a slug of applicants with previous varsity coaching experience. There were plenty of assistants looking for that first varsity job. "As far as that group was concerned, John set the bar pretty high when he interviewed," noted Manis.
Baker's basketball background is obviously Purdue. He was a student manager for Matt Painter and worked with assistants Martin and Paul Lusk, who took over at Missouri State when Martin grabbed the Tennessee job a few weeks ago. All three were enthusiastic in their support of Baker.
"John worked with Coach Painter three years. In his letter of recommendation, Painter noted that John was a sponge as he learned all that he could, about film study, about the game, a head coach's demeanor in games and his work with his assistants.
"That experience proved to be beneficial to John, who now has these great contacts in coaching for advice. Of course, he has coach Busick if he needs input for anything. Those things bode well for John," added Manis.
"This is John's destination job. He's not coaching here to get experience so he can move on to something else. It's a job he'd like to keep for a long time. That certainly makes it so he will work at it. He seems excited about the opportunity and I think he'll take advantage of it," offered Manis.
Baker is currently a sixth-grade teacher at Bellmont Middle School, and also received backing from BMS Principal Scott Miller and BMS Athletic Director Tim Myers.
John is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Ted Baker of Decatur. His brother, Joe, played for the Bellmont varsity this past year as a senior and was the top scorer on the team.
John and his wife Suzanne have a six-month old daughter Hannah.