By Mark Jurgenson
On December 7th, Triad assistant boys basketball coach Jeff Faulkenberg was honored as one of the newest members of the IBCA Hall of Fame.
That announcement was 40 years late according to the prophetic words of former Owen Valley High School basketball coach Jerrill Vandeventer.
“You got it in your blood, don’t you?” Vandeventer said to Faulkenberg, as the two were constructing a makeshift coaches office at the Spencer, Ind. school.
That was in the fall of 1980. Faulkenberg was a first-year teacher and assistant coach. Preseason basketball practice had not even begun.
Whenever the basketball season begins in 2021, Faulkenberg will embark on his 35th season of coaching.
It is definitely in his blood.
The retired business and P.E. teacher remains an assistant coach for the boys basketball and girls tennis programs at Triad High School.
In fact, he has been an assistant for the last four Triad boys basketball head coaches: Todd Grigg, Sam Drake, Josh Hunt, and current coach Jeff Guidry.
“When I was fortunate to be hired as the head coach at Triad, my very first phone call was to coach Faulkenberg to ask him to stay with the program,” began Guidry. “He could have easily said, ‘I’m retired now and ready to do something else in the winter,’ but he didn’t even hesitate. (It) just goes to show how much he loves the kids, loves the game, and loves Triad.”
Hunt, the former Triad boys coach, and current girls basketball coach echoed those sentiments.
“This is a well-deserved honor for Coach Faulkenberg,” said Hunt. “Jeff Is a tremendous coach and most importantly an even better person. He has influenced and impacted so many people within our area throughout the years. Jeff is such a genuine person who truly has a passion and a love for the game of basketball. Coach Faulkenberg is a mentor and a friend and I cherish my relationship with him.”
While he certainly has shown his dedication to THS, his dedication to coaching is even more impressive. He has coached all of the following sports: baseball, boys & girls basketball, football, boys & girls golf, softball, girls tennis, and even cross country. Just for good measure, he was the athletic director at Triad for seven years prior to his retirement.
Faulkenberg is more than a coach. His influence on others, like many legendary coaches, stretches far beyond the athletic arena.
“Jeff was my mentor as he held the AD position when I took over in 2013,” said current Triad AD Kenny Deatherage. “Jeff continues to be one of the most knowledgeable and dedicated people that I know, not only to the game of basketball and to the Triad district, but also to his incredible family! “
That knowledge of basketball extends back to his formative years.
He grew up in the basketball-crazy world of small town southern Indiana where his uncle, Joe LaGrange, was the head coach of the local high school team and later the athletic director.
When Faulkenberg got to Perry Central High School, he was a four-sport athlete playing football, basketball, baseball, and track.
He didn’t play any sports in college at Indiana State but instead got a different type of education in the form of ISU’s most famous stretch of athletes.
The #1 gymnast in the world, Kurt Thomas, was at ISU as was a wrestler named Bruce Baumgartner who would win four Olympic medals including two golds. They had another famous athlete, future NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird.
“It was quite a time to be at Indiana State,” Faulkenberg began. “It was probably, sports-wise, the best of all times to be at Indiana State.”
He went to every game the Men’s basketball team played during their run to the 1979 NCAA Tournament championship game. He drove to Lawrence, Kan., Cincinnati, Ohio and Salt Lake City, Utah.
His coaching career began at ISU where he was a player and de facto coach of his intramural basketball team on campus. That career continued off-campus during his senior year as the 7th and 8th grade coach of the Laboratory School in Terre Haute.
The Lab School was meant to give aspiring teachers practical experience in the field of education. Faulkenberg got an education in his season opener.
“The very first game we had was a home game,” Faulkenberg began. “We played okay and down the stretch, we ended up falling behind and lost by five or six points. After the game was over, I went and shook hands and the other coach said, ‘how long until we play the 7th grade game?’ I said, ‘you just played your 8th graders against our 7th graders?’ So that was my first game coaching.”
After Owen Valley, he came to Illinois and spent a year as an assistant at Lexington.
One year later he became the boys basketball coach at Marissa High School. His team went 3-22 that year, but upset Waterloo (Gibault) 68-67 in the first round of the regional.
They accomplished this upset despite missing their center and having four of 11 total varsity players foul out during the contest. Gibault finished that year at 20-7.
Faulkenberg was also the athletic director, assistant baseball coach, and Jr. High baseball coach at Marissa. He was the assistant for the 1986 Class A baseball state champs under Hall of Fame coach Lee Schulte.
After four years, he moved on to become the boys basketball coach at Highland where his teams went 205-172 in 14 seasons.
Ironically, he counts a win over Triad as one of his most memorable coaching victories.
The Triad-Highland rivalry spilled over to the championship of the Salem Class AA Sectional in 1996. Highland won that game 67-50 in front of an overflow crowd.
“The fact that it was playing against such a good friend and such a great man in Rich Mason, who was coaching Triad at that time, and all the kids knew each other, a lot of them were friends off the court,” said Faulkenberg. “It was a huge game, the stands were packed and it was just very memorable.”
That 1996 team is also memorable for others in the Metro East. Current Collinsville coach Darin Lee competed against those Highland teams when Lee was the coach at Nashville.
“Jeff had a long and distinguished coaching career, with some great teams at Highland, especially in ‘96,” said Lee, a fellow IBCA Hall of Famer. “Jeff always conducted himself with a lot of class win or lose. He is very deserving of this honor from the IBCA.”
George Grubbs, the former coach of another Highland rival, Greenville, echoed Lee’s sentiments about Faulkenberg’s coaching.
“(He is) well-deserving,” said Grubbs. “His teams were always well prepared and played hard. Jeff Is a great guy and was good for the game.”
After his time on the bench at Highland was done, he remained at the middle school to teach and coach golf. Meanwhile, he took a job as the freshman basketball coach at arch-rival Triad. He has ingrained himself into the Triad community since then.
“The past four head coaches at Triad trusted me enough to put me on their staff and believe that I had something to contribute,” said Faulkenberg. “(It’s like) Highland doesn’t want you to be the head coach anymore but we think you bring something of value to our program.”
Faulkenberg credits the support of his whole family, especially his wife, Pam, for contributing to his longevity in the coaching profession. This June will mark their 40th wedding anniversary. They have three sons Jordan, Devan, and Dylan.
“(I have) a very supportive family,” Faulkenberg began. “My wife took those kids to games before they were old enough to ride the bus (with the high school team), being there all the time…it’s just huge because there’s a lot of times where you lose games and you come home and there’s a family that loves you. It doesn’t matter whether you won the game or lost the game. You can take your mind off that game and get back to the real-life things.”