Monday, April 30, 2012

Frankfort's Blue Chip Coach

For many years, my father drove east through Frankfort, Ind. on Indiana State Road 28 on his way to Fairmount.  Every time he passed Frankfort High School, he would point out the arena that set back off the highway while trying to imagine what the large structure looked like inside.  It's rounded exterior, yellow brick facade, and large white dome was contrast to the smaller rectangular or barrel roof gymnasiums that he was accustomed to in Missouri.  

What my father didn’t know as he drove by Case Arena all those years was that he had seen the interior before.  And what he thought was an innovative marvel didn't compare to the coaching legend and innovator who it's named in honor of. 

Never did he imagine while admiring the arena from afar, that years later he would be inside playing basketball.

Frankfort's Case Arena
In the fall of 2008, we visited Frankfort's Case Arena and as we pulled into the parking lot, I could read what my father was thinking - "I told you it was one-of-a-kind." Built in the early 1960s, the arena is ranked as the 22nd largest high school gymnasium in Indiana with a capacity of 5,509. Known throughout the state for it's architectural design, Case Arena is also home to one of the most unique school mascot names, the Frankfort Hot Dogs. Case Arena could very well pass for a college basketball arena. Well, in a way it did in 1994.  This is one of the reasons we added it to our list of gyms to visit.

Case Arena interior & court

Scoreboard with the Hot Dog mascot

Upper bowl bleachers retracted 
Case Arena became the homecourt for the Western University Dolphins in the basketball movie, Blue Chips, starring Nick Nolte, Shaquille O’Neal, and Anfernee 'Penny' Hardaway.  In the movie Nolte plays college coach Pete Bell who is under a lot of pressure to win. To attract the blue chip caliber players, he agrees for boosters to secretly pay recruits in order to return to a winning program.  In the end, he would step down as coach.

The movie also brought many of the finest basketball players and coaches to town, such as Bob Knight, Bob Cousy, and Rick Pitino, since three Western University home games were played in Case Arena.  Although the exterior shots of the arena were filmed at the University of Southern California, all interior shots including the games and locker room scenes where filmed in Frankfort.  A few pieces of movie memorabilia and photos remain in a glass case in the arena’s lobby.  If you're ever lucky enough to go inside the boys basketball locker room, you will find the signatures of a few of the players and coaches from the movie on a wall.  Although faded, the signatures still remain today.

Although the movie filmed inside the arena led us to Frankfort, it's the name on the arena's exterior that we enjoyed learning about the most. 

Most people identify Everett N. Case as the successful coach at North Carolina State University (NC State) who would later be considered the “Father of the ACC”, but his coaching roots began in Indiana.

Everett N. Case
Born and raised in Anderson, Ind., Case would graduate from Anderson High School in 1918 knowing that he wanted to coach basketball.  His first coaching job would come as an assistant coach at Connersville High School.  A year later he would become the head coach at Columbus High School recording a 20-10 record. The following year, he became head coach at Smithville High School where his team compiled a 32-6 record.

His next move was to Frankfort where his legendary career took off. He would coach Frankfort from 1922 to 1932 and then again from 1935 to 1942.  Case would coach Frankfort for 17 total seasons and compile a 385-99-1 record.  He averaged 23 wins per season and only 6 losses. Case won 14 of 15 Regional Tournaments and 15 of 17 Sectional Tournaments.  He would also become the first coach to win four State Championships with wins in 1925, 1929, 1936, and 1939.

Not only would Case contribute to the success of Frankfort and put the town on the basketball map, he would contribute to the game on a state and national level as well.

The 1936 State Championship game would have significance because it ended in a double overtime time against Indianapolis Tech.  After the second overtime everyone was tired so the coaches agreed to call it a tie.  This decision impelled Case to request a rule change that no basketball could end in a tie. 

After winning the State Title in 1939, Case organized an Indiana All-Star team to compete against his 1939 team.  The All-Star game was taken over by the Indianapolis Star, which would evolve in 1943 into the historical all-star event still played today with Kentucky in which both states would host an All-Star game.

Another of Case’s contributions to the game would happen as a result of one of the most memorable Frankfort games.  In 1926 as Logansport was on the way to play Frankfort, they got stuck in a snowdrift. As a result, the game would start just a little before midnight.  When Logansport, who was one of the best teams in the state that year, took a 7-6 lead, Frankfort would inbound the ball and stall at the far end of the court for the last 11 minutes of the first half.  Logansport stalled in the second half until they were called for a traveling violation. The turnover lead to Frankfort again stalling until 5 minutes left in regulation.  They would then execute a few set plays and go on to win 10-7 but the stalling on the far ends of the court would led to the 10-second rule we have today.

In 1942, Case would leave Frankfort for the United States Navy, where he was commissioned to serve in the physical education development area and assigned to coach among other responsibilities. He would be discharged in 1946 following the end of World War II.  After evaluating his basketball coaching options, which included a return to Frankfort, he chose to sign a long term contract as head coach at NC State.

Coaching at NC State
Over the next 18 years, Case would bring superiority basketball to the southeastern region of the nation.  When first arriving to Raleigh, football ruled the South. Case was largely credited with making basketball an obsession in the state as we see today.

Unfortunately, as Nolte's character Pete Bell would circum to winning at all costs in the movie Blue Chips, Case would also be tied to recruitment and point shaving violations that would result in multiple year probations. Shortly thereafter during the beginning of the 1964-65 season, Case would step down as head coach of NC State due to inoperable cancer. He would name his top assistant, Press Maravich, as his successor. 

Cutting down the nets - a ritual that Case would popularize
He would end his NC State coaching career with a 377-134 overall record (.738 winning percentage); Southern Conference Championships in 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952; and ACC Championships in 1954, 1955, 1956, and 1959. Additionally, he would capture ACC Coach of the Year honors in 1954, 1955, and 1958. Case's teams finished third in the 1947 NIT and third in the 1950 NCAA Tournament.

Case was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1964, the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1968, and the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982.

While coaching at the high school and college levels, Case would be responsible for many innovations and contributions to the game, both on and off the court.  Some of the notions that Case thought of or popularized are as follows:

  • Instituted rule that a game cannot end in a tie in the state of Indiana
  • Time clock. At one time, a stop watch was used as the timer. No one except the timer knew how much time remained.
  • Numbers on player jersey
  • Cutting down the nets after a tournament victory
  • Announcing starting players before the game
  • Using the full-court press for long stretches of a game
  • Institution of the 10-second line
  • First Basketball Camps
  • One of the first to film games and review film to prepare for a game
  • Play music before games
  • Invite a pep band to play at games

In 1966 at the age of 65, Everett N. Case would lose his battle with cancer.  He would divide his estate among 220 of his former players.

Everett N. Case (1900-1966)
It is also said that Case asked that his body be laid to rest in Raleigh Memorial Park Cemetery facing North Carolina Highway 70 so when future NC State Wolfpack teams traveled to play Duke and North Carolina, they could wave at him – and he would wave back.

Everett Case will never be forgotten in Frankfort.  The arena that bears his name is almost as large as his list of career accomplishments and contributions to the game.  Hollywood couldn't have wrote a better coaching story.

In the years since touring Frankfort's Case Arena, my father has drove by it numerous times.  Where he once looked over and pointed at the large round arena in wonder, he now points and reminisces about his day of playing basketball inside. 

Our photo that appeared on the front of the Frankfort newspaper


  1. when did the Frankfort high schools began calling their teams the Hot Dogs ?

  2. I will share that my (now deceased) uncle did the painting and artwork of the dolphins at FHS for the Blue Chips movie

  3. Frankfort was first called the Frankfort fighting five until Everett Case won his 2nd state high champion. That's when an Indianapolis Star sports writer printed in the paper that the Frankfort team were hot during the state finals . This was way back in the late 20's. Later the fans were calling the basketball team the Frankfort Hot Dogs. This then became the nickname of our Frankfort High School. We are the only high school in America called the Frankfort Hot Dogs. The rest is history.