Angola looked inward to fill their boys basketball coaching position and it came in a somewhat unexpected place.
Brandon Appleton, who has spent the last six seasons coaching girls basketball at the school is the new boys basketball coach. This was approved at a school board meeting on Tuesday night and confirmed by Appleton to Outside the Huddle.
For Appleton to make the change, he was ready to test himself on the boys side as part of his career bucket list.
“It was one of those, where if I didn’t scratch that itch, I was always going to wonder the rest of my life ‘what if’ or if I could have,” Appleton said.
Appleton started his Indiana coaching career with boys on the JV level at Scecina Memorial in Indianapolis. During that time, he was able to see a high level of play with several guys who are now playing professionally, including with NBA experience.
“It is always something that has been in the back of my mind,” said Appleton. “It was interesting to see that landscape. Indiana is a basketball state and to see up close and personal Trey Lyles [now a San Antonio Spur] as he is coming through school and some of these other talented players, it is neat to get that experience.”
The move to the boys side is also rooted in family for Appleton and continuing a culture with Angola boys basketball. Appleton thought back to a boys game he attended earlier this season and how his sons lit up while watching the action. That enjoyment from them, he says, isn’t something he is privy to while he is in game coaching. It opened his mind up to what coaching boys basketball could mean to his young sons now and into the future.
“I want my boys to be able to come into the gym and have guys they look up to and want to be like hopefully some day,” Appleton said.
Appleton has spent the past six seasons leading the Hornet girls to a 111-40 record, including going 21-3 in 2019-2020. This past season, Angola was unstoppable in the NECC winning both the conference regular season and tournament titles without a single NECC blemish along the way behind Indiana Junior All-Star Hanna Knoll. After starting the season 1-2, Angola rallied off an area best 20 straight wins before a Sectional upset loss to Concordia Lutheran.
With a big group of girls returning for the Hornets, Appleton said that it is extremely hard to make the move right now.
“It hurts. It is bittersweet. I am excited for my challenge that I have ahead of me with the boys but at the same time, there are a lot of tears and a lot of pain. I love those girls dearly,” Appleton said. “It has been a lifelong dream of mine to coach Indiana high school basketball and when my journey started, I never even saw myself being a girls coach. Looking back now, it has been one of the biggest blessings I have ever had in my life.”
During Appleton’s time leading the girls program, he never posted a losing record and had won 20-plus games each of the past three seasons. The Hornets won a Sectional title in 2019 and advanced to the night game of the Regional before losing to Marion.
“It has always been a curiosity for me of if we could do some of the same things we do on the girls side and be successful on the boys side with it,” Appleton said.
The Angola boys were previously coached by Ed Bentley for seven and a half seasons. Bentley suddenly resigned from the position 15 games into the 2019-2020 season. His assistant, Josh Sheets, took over on an interim basis and went 4-4 in that time. Angola returns a big chunk of their team next season, including All-Conference player Joel Knox.
“Ed has done a fantastic job of making Angola a different kind of a name than what it used to be in terms of athletics. Hopefully, God willing, we can have little bit of success with the boys and maybe my boys can have a good program to come into,” Appleton said. “Something that is fun and exciting and hopefully something that people are proud of.”
The Hornet boys have posted six straight winning seasons with their last Sectional title coming in 2019.
On the girls side, Appleton says he hopes he will get some say in the search for his replacement. If, for no other reason, then to continue continuity for the athletics program as a whole.
“I think it is understated how important Ed Bentley was to Angola athletics and his departure will be felt. But with what he and and coach [Andy] Thomas have done with basketball and football and obviously coach [Lloy] Ball taking over the volleyball program, everything is kind of rolling in the right direction,” Appleton said.
“It is just making sure everybody is committed to training and putting in the hours you need to be successful because there is always somebody, somewhere working; it doesn’t matter the sport.”