In the time that I have spent at the Times Herald, some of the best of those times were spent with Bill Slatton. Bill, the former long-time basketball coach at Elnora and North Daviess who passed away on Tuesday, was always ready to talk about basketball or just about anything else, often punctuated with a big laugh and a booming “Now, let me tell you something...”
I was sad to hear the news, but it wasn’t hard to quickly move on to the fact that Bill was not about sadness, he was about laughter.
I often enjoyed Bill talking about basketball back in the days of Converse basketball shoes and two-handed set shots. The funny thing is, as much as Bill would reminisce about the “good old days,” he was still very much active in today’s game as well. He helped out with North Daviess’ middle school program until just recently, sharing his skills and abilities with the players who have made North Daviess one of the most successful programs in southwestern Indiana.
North Daviess coach Brent Dalrymple said that he had a very special relationship with Bill during the time he has been at North Daviess.
“He was the first name I heard when I got to North Daviess,” said Dalrymple. “He became a great friend who would call me after every weekend we played. He was never afraid to tell me the truth, and that was something I always appreciated about him.”
Dalrymple added that Slatton led this year’s group of seniors to a conference championship as eighth graders and had a positive impact on everyone who came through the program.
Bill also loved baseball having played for the Washington Grays and in the Army. As an Army baseball and basketball player, he became a good friend of former Pacer coach and announcer Bobby “Slick” Leonard. Bill stayed close to him and just a few years ago he and I spent some quality time with Slick at Conseco Fieldhouse. Bill would often giving me a little Pacer “scoop” after a call up to Leonard in Indy.
The one thing I never did see, was Bill as a coach. However, I was told very early in my time in Washington that Bill’s 1969 ND team was one of the area’s best ever. Steve Fisher who played for Bill that year, said fairness was Bill’s most important trait as a coach.
“He was always fair. He had such a big responsibility that first year, because he was bringing four communities together,” said Fisher. “He had to be fair to make it work.”
As much as Fisher respected Slatton as a coach, it was as a person that he made the biggest impact.
“When my father passed in 1983, Bill became like a father to me. I can tell you that there has rarely been a decision in my life since then that Bill hasn’t helped me with.”
I think what I enjoyed most was Bill’s sense of humor and gregarious nature. Always quick with a joke or a needle, just seeing Bill and his lovely wife Marilyn in passing were often some of my best encounters of the day.
Bill loved golf and I think the last time I saw him at the course was at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame outing at Country Oaks last year. Bill was truly in his element, holding court with the people whom he shared a lifetime love of basketball. There was a special bond between Bill and those coaches he lived and laughed with.
I think that is the way I want to remember Bill, with a big straw hat on, leaned up against a golf cart, sharing a laugh with Joe Todrank, telling stories about his battles with Loogootee, Barr-Reeve, Odon and Plainville.
Bill will be missed by those who knew him - I miss him already.