(This article about former Connersville teacher and coach Joseph ‘Doc’ Heavey appeared in the December 1986 issue of The Court Traveler. Heavey died on Nov. 27, 2016. He was 92.)
“I’m just a broken down old coach that nobody pays any attention to.”
That’s one of the favorite phrases Joe ‘Doc’ Heavey likes to describe himself as.
Anyone who’s been even remotely involved with Connersville athletics, or those on the collegiate level or higher, know better.
‘Doc,’ as everyone knows him, has an amazingly brilliant basketball mind. But it doesn’t stop there, he’s also a football wizard who has attended several kicking camps at Wilmington (Ohio) College and is considered a specialist on the subject.
Back to the man himself first. Born 62 years ago in Hartford, Ct., Doc grew up in a rough section of the city where it would have been easy to have taken a wrong turn, but athletics were always the number one priority to Heavey and his friends.
“Sure, we saw drunks in the gutters and all that, but we were playing something all the time — basketball, baseball, football. We didn’t care (about) or have time for dope and stuff.”
The results of a clean life paid dividends for the former industrial arts teacher who retired two years ago. Attending Hartford Public High from 1939-43, Heavey played the big three sports — basketball, football and baseball. He was All-State 1st Team as an offensive end on the gridiron, and received high honorable mention in basketball and baseball during the ’43 season.
Following his graduation, he attended the University of Connecticut where he was a starting right end on a Huskies squad that holds the school’s best record, 9-1.
After that, it was on to the United States Army in 1944. Doc ended up in the Philippines and Okinawa, where he became the island’s athletic director for the entire Army base, a job that entailed the usuals of scheduling and coordinating events.
It was back to school for Heavey after his military career ended. He attended Morehead State University between 1948-51, where he lettered in basketball, baseball and football. He also earned his B.A. and Masters Degree from the Kentucky school.
After that, it was on to coaching, and working prestigious basketball camps, with his first stint as a counselor at the legendary Clair Bee’s New York Military — “Cornwall on the Hudson Camp” — the first organized basketball camp in the United States.
First, let’s go to Doc’s head basketball coaching career. He began at Seamon (Ohio) High School in 1951 and spent three years there. Doc must have liked the Buckeye state because his next four stops, all lasting three seasons, were all within Ohio’s borders.
Decatur was next, followed by a stint at Winchester where one of Heavey’s more renowned feats was accomplished. “Winchester hadn’t won a game in seven years. They’d lost over a hundred straight games and in my first year, we won 10,” he said.
The main reason for the drastic change? “It was a political thing … I straightened things out like not being forced to play the superintendent’s son or whatever. … I didn’t stay long,” he added with a chuckle.
But his winning coaching style had been established. Trenton and Goshen were the last two stops in Ohio for Heavey.
Doc has no hesitation in explaining that basketball has always been his favorite sport. “It’s inside and warm, while in baseball you’ve got the rain, and in football it gets to be so cold outside.”
Vivid proof that besides possessing an extraordinary sports mind, he’s loaded with common sense.
Heavey began his Connersville coaching career in 1964 and spent 20 years at it. During that time, he ranged from coaching in the 7th-, 8th- and 9th-grades, up to the time he was the CHS Junior Varsity coach and varsity assistant to Darrell Morken during the 1978-79 and 1979-80 seasons, which was the highest level Doc reached in the local system.
Heavey established night time basketball in Spartan Bowl for prospective players and the general public, a fact that has helped put Spartan basketball where it is today. That was in the late 60s.
The ‘open gym’ concept was still going strong today, but the end has arrived. The IHSAA has ruled such programs illegal after several schools were accused of having their prospective players going through more than just routine basketball.
Coaches coaching during the off-season a no-no? Thank goodness for the decent courts at Roberts Park were kids can still learn the game.
Heavey’s biggest success story in the Connersville system began during the 1967-68 basketball campaign when his 7th grade ‘A’ team went unbeaten. Doc followed that group to the 8th grade the following year with the same result — a perfect record.
… 34 straight wins for the team that included Gerald Thomas, current CHS junior varsity coach Larry Miller, Ken Free and Jerry Ellis, all who played on Connersville’s first state championship team in 1972 for coach Myron Dickerson.
In all, Heavey has a proud coaching record in Connersville of 300 wins and just 50 losses. “It isn’t too bad,” he says with a laugh. “Considering you only play 12 or 14 games sometimes, it’s a pretty good record.”
Heavey’s season records as the JV coach for two years while Morken was the CHS boss were 15-4 and 14-4. Morken remembers Heavey well.
“In my 18 years of coaching experience there were two assistant coaches that if I’d have moved to a higher level, I would have wanted to take with me — and Doc was one,” said Morken. “His experience, expertise and enthusiasm is totally throughout whatever he’s doing, and he has knowledge in a vast number of areas.”
So, would Heavey have liked a crack at the Spartans varsity coaching job? “I would have liked to have been the head coach,” he said, adding a quick reminder about the situation. “We had the teachers’ strike and when you believe in something, you have to take the bitter with the sweet.
“I did that. I got the boot but life goes on. People know I know basketball … I’ve been through the wars.”
Doc still coaches in the local system. The past two years he’s taken 9th grade football teams that were winless as 8th graders and turned out 6-1 and 5-2 records. He also is the weightlifting coach in the new weight room at CHS.
Doc has a variety of strategies concerning the hardwood sport, and with a career winning percentage of .857, he must have done some things right.
To be a winner, he says, your team must be the most aggressive. From the get-go.
“Right after the Star Spangled Banner comes the full-court press,” he said. “If you press, you make yourselves positive thinkers. When you’re getting pressed you become negative thinkers. You win by being aggressive.”
It doesn’t stop there. “You’ve got to have three or four offenses and you’ve got to know your opponent’s repertoire. I see so many things that can win or lose a ball game,” he said while shaking his head.
“Also, don’t ever show all of your cards in the first half because the other coach has 15 minutes at the half to adjust to it. You’ve got to always have a positive attitude and remember that the most aggressive team always wins in any sport.”
Heavey has fond memories from the numerous times he served as a counselor at Clair Bee’s “Cornwall on the Hudson” hoops camp, which began in 1951. He met nearly all of the most well known and famous basketball coaches of the time at the camps, names such as St. John’s University coach Lou Carnesecca, former New York Knicks mentor Red Holtzman, Frank McGuire, who coached North Carolina and South Carolina, Indiana Hoosiers coach Bob Knight, current Indiana Pacers general manager Donnie Walsh and former Marquette coach and TV broadcaster Al McGuire.
Bee is an Almighty in Knight’s eyes, and it was Heavey who introduced them, he said. Knight also got the heave-ho once by Heavey while Doc was officiating the camp games and Knight was the freshman coach at Army.
“I had to throw Tates Locke (Knight’s assistant) out, too,” he said with a laugh.
Although it’s been over 30 years, Walsh remembers Heavey well. “Sure, I remember Joe Heavey,” Walsh told The Court Traveler. “He was a real hard-nosed competitor and he had a really good basketball mind. He was a good man who treated me well, which was an unusual circumstance for me at the time.”
The time Walsh spoke of was when he was a 16-year-old student counselor at the camp while most of the participants were at least 18. Heavey said Walsh was one of the most coveted high school players in New York City then, therefore earning a counselor’s spot.
Of the many players who learned under Heavey at the camp, one may stick out in his mind a little more than others. For two years, as a 5th- and 6th-grader, Pete Maravich — the leading scorer in NCAA mens basketball history (3,667 points, 44.2 ppg in 3 seasons at LSU) — was a member of Doc’s barracks.
“He as an over-achiever who really wanted to be good,” said Doc. “He followed me around all the time wanting me to help him. He was little, but he was good enough to play in the 8th-grade league and when I put him in, he was a ball-handling wizard, no one could take it away from him.
“He’d be up at 5 a.m. each morning, dribbling a ball in the next room. I’d tell him to stop but by 6 o’clock, he’d be in the gym by himself until 8 o’clock, working out alone.”
Heavey did have his ‘tough’ jobs at the camp. More than once he had to pick up former University of Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp at New York’s LaGuardia Airport and drive him to the camp. “He always had some sort of classic stories,” he said.
Heavey expressed his thoughts about several basketball-related topics, including:
1) College basketball’s best-ever teams: “IU (the 1974-75 team and the undefeated 1975-76 NCAA champions) was fine defensively and a great team, but I’d still have to say UCLA, with the long championship streak (1967 through 1973) would be the best ever. John Wooden has done so much and he’s a fine gentleman who’s always got time to talk to you.”
2) The current turmoil college hoops is undergoing with alleged payoffs to players: “It’s funny that the big schools never get nailed. Coaches want to eliminate the boosters that give players cars and money. I think it goes on and I don’t approve of it.”
3) Professional basketball: “The NBA game is made for the stars. They need to play a sloughing man-to-man defense to take away some of the one-on-one plays. Plus, the game and the season are too long.”
4) The five players he’d select as Indiana’s best-ever high schoolers: “Off hand, I’d say Steve Alford (New Castle), Landon Turner (Indianapolis Tech), Oscar Robertson (Crispus Attucks), Ron Bonham (Muncie Central) and Rick Mount (Lebanon). They all were outstanding.”
Heavey left Larry Bird off the list, “Because he really wasn’t that good in high school.” He acknowledges that the French Lick native now rates as perhaps the state’s second best player ever — behind Oscar.
“He was the best,” he said about Robertson. “He could beat Bird in both of their primes because he could do so many more things. But you couldn’t go wrong starting a team with either one of them.”
5) Connersville’s state championship teams … 1972 or 1983, which team was the best? “I really don’t want to create any animosity or hard feelings. I would have to say both were very good teams … I don’t like to compare them because they’re from different eras.”
Heavey, who still devotes Friday and Saturday nights scouting a game for some coach, including Marion’s Bill Green, admits to being an opinionated man who speaks his mind.
“And if I say something, you can take it to the bank,” he said.
Joe ‘Doc’ Heavey. A man. A legend.
High school sports needs more people like him. Connersville has been fortunate to have him.
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