After 35 years, Portage coach still feels passion of basketball

Evan Gerike, Managing Editor

Being an athlete was in Rick Snodgrass’s blood since day one. Thirty-five years later, that blood still flows strong.

Snodgrass began his involvement with sports from a young age, when he would go to games where his dad, a high school referee, was working.

“My passion for basketball started when I was five or six years old,” Snodgrass said,  crediting his dad as an inspiration that led into his coaching career. “My dad was a very good high school player in all sports.”

As he got older, Snodgrass participated in a wide range of sports. In high school, he was a three sport athlete in football, basketball and baseball, and was eventually recruited to play baseball at Miami University Ohio.

His first head coaching job came at Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers. When Snodgrass coached there from 1984 to 1989, Hamilton Southeastern had around 400 students.

From Hamilton Southeastern, Snodgrass moved on to Twin Lakes High School in Monticello, where he coached for seven years.

“My teams won three sectionals,” Snodgrass, added, discussing the success he had at Twin Lakes. “That was back when it was one class basketball, and all three years…we finished regional runner up, so we finished top 32 in the state.”

The success at Twin Lakes includes what Snodgrass says is his favorite day of coaching. Around a week after his daughter was born, his team was playing in the sectionals. There were three games being played that day, and the first ended in an upset on an double overtime buzzer-beater.

“We were playing Benton Central, who was 24-0, and we defeated them on a last second free throw. That night we played Rensselaer Central, and they beat us 64-62 on a last second shot as the buzzer went off.”

Snodgrass added that he thinks the shot happened after the buzzer, but since Rensselaer was already celebrating, no one was going to tell them otherwise.

“The loss is immaterial to me; the memory of that day with those kids is just something I’ll never forget.”

As his oldest son prepared to enter high school, Snodgrass nearly ended his coaching career. He moved into a job as an Athletic Director down in southern Indiana. He would not have continued coaching if not for a phone call from an old friend.

“A friend of mine was the head baseball coach at Danville Community High School, and he called and said ‘Hey, we have a basketball coaching position open, I think you should come down and take a look at it,’” Snodgrass said.

His former basketball coach gave him advice that pushed him back into coaching.

“He said I didn’t have coaching out of my blood yet. So I went to Danville for three years.”

“I was offered a job at North Harrison, where they had some good young talent, so we made the move down there. I was there 8 years, and then Portage opened up.”

For Snodgrass, the move to Portage provided a chance to return closer to his family in Lafayette. He and his family moved up to Portage to take the coaching job, and they have yet to look back in 12 years. Now being the longest tenure of his career, Snodgrass feels like he is truly a part of the Portage community.

“My wife and I have really enjoyed Portage,” Snodgrass said. “We plan on ending my career here. We have a few more years where we want to continue to do what we’ve been doing, and continue to build a program, but it’s been one of the most enjoyable places I’ve coached.”

Snodgrass has faced plenty of adversity, and many rules changes have occurred during his lengthy career. Snodgrass was coaching at Danville when class basketball began.

“The first year of classes Indianapolis Cathedral won the state in 3A. Next year Plainfield won the state tourney, so the first two years of class basketball I was in the sectional with the state champion. Both years we lost in the sectional championship.”

Snodgrass also had to face a change in size of school when coming to Portage, which was by far the largest school he has coached at.

The reason Snodgrass has stayed coaching for this long is simple – he loves the kids.

“I’ve always felt like my job was to teach the young men to be grown adults through basketball,” Snodgrass said. “Sports are a great way to see how boys progress into young men.”

More than just teaching student-athletes how to play the game, Snodgrass emphasizes building adults and forming relationship with his players. He has been in the weddings of five of his former players, and his daughter was the flower girl at two of them.

“The relationships I form with the players beyond the court – I cannot tell you how much that means to me.”