Four Indiana high school assistant coaches will receive special awards from the Indiana Basketball Association in 2020.
Columbus North girls basketball assistant coach RaNae Isaak and Speedway boys basketball assistant Jim Merlie will be recognized with a Point Guard College Transformational Coach Award presented by the IBCA. North Putnam girls basketball assistant Jim Brothers and Hamilton Heights boys basketball assistant will receive awards as IBCA Assistant Coaches of the Year.
PGC Transformation Coach Awards, are presented to coaches who impact lives of their players and fellow coaches at their school and within their community. Point Guard College is a corporate partner of IBCA.
The IBCA assistant coach awards recognize coaches who have contributed significantly to their schools’ athletic programs for more than 30 years each.
Awards typically are presented during the IBCA’s annual clinic in April, but this year’s clinic is postponed. Coaches will receive awards at a date to be determined.
Transformational Coach: RaNae Isaak, Columbus North girls assistant, recently completed her 14th season as a girls basketball assistant coach at Columbus North, helping guide the Bull Dogs to a 16-9 record.
In the spring of 2019, Isaak had repeated muscle-tensing episodes in her left arm and leg that ultimately were diagnosed last May as result of a brain tumor. She continued to work with the Columbus North program through summer workouts before having brain surgery to remove the tumor July 12.
The surgery left Isaak with no ability to move her left side and an initial prognosis that she may be unable to walk for an extended period. But following rehab, Isaak walked out of the facility on Aug. 3 and returned to her life as an engineer at Cummins, Inc., a basketball coach at Columbus North, an MBA student at Indiana University and a wife and step-mother to two college-age women.
She was honored by the Indiana Pacers for her recovery at halftime of the Pacers’ 116-114 home victory against Minnesota at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Isaak, 38, has been a coach in the Columbus North girls program since 2006. She coached four seasons with then-CN coach Debbie Marr, then has remained on staff for the past 10 seasons with CN coach Pat McKee.
Columbus North has posted a 274-78 record during Isaak’s 14 seasons on staff. In the past 10 seasons, the Bull Dogs have gone 217-50 with seven Conference Indiana championships, six sectional titles, four regional crowns, three semi-state trophies and the 2015 Class 4A state championship. The Bull Dogs also were Class 4A state runners-up in 2012 and 2016 as well as a final four team in 2017.
A 2000 graduate of American Falls High School in Idaho, Isaak started on a basketball team with a four-year record of 90-16, placed third in the Idaho state tournament her first three seasons and won the Idaho Class A-2 state championship with a 23-5 finish when she was a senior.
She also played golf and volleyball in high school, and later was a four-year NCAA Division I golfer at Idaho State. She also served as a graduate assistant coach for Idaho State women’s golf in 2005-06. She is on track to receive her master’s in business administration this spring from IU.
Isaak and her husband, Ron Patberg, live in Columbus.
Transformational Coach: Jim Merlie, Speedway boys assistant
Jim Merlie, assistant coach for the past seven seasons in the Speedway High School boys basketball program, goes beyond typical tasks such as helping with the Sparkplugs’ practices and games as well as camps, clinics and a youth program. Merlie also created the school’s Student Athletic Leadership Team. SALT annually sends students to the IHSAA Youth Leadership Conference. He organized Speedway’s first unified basketball contest this past season in conjunction with Cascade High School. That came after the SALT group organized unified kickball games for three years.
A 1998 graduate of Schlarman High School in Danville, Ill., Merlie competed in basketball, cross country and track and field. He earned three varsity letters in basketball, and his team won an Illinois Class A regional when he was a senior. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 2003 from Marian University in elementary education and special education.
Merlie began his coaching career as the Cardinal Ritter freshman boys basketball coach in 2005-06. He then moved to Indianapolis Manual High School, as a boys basketball assistant for three seasons and became the Redskins’ varsity coach from 2009-12. His Manual teams posted a 26-43 record, highlighted by a 12-11 mark and sectional championship in 2011-12.
Merlie accepted a position at Speedway, where he has been a key support person for the past seven years.
IBCA Assistant Coach of the Year: Jim Brothers, North Putnam girls
A teacher for 40 years at his alma mater, Brothers also has served as a coach and/or athletic administrator for 33 of those years for the school located in Roachdale. Brothers grew up in nearby Fincastle and attended Roachdale Elementary School, North Putnam Junior High and North Putnam High School, graduating in 1976 as an all-conference player in basketball, football and baseball.
He went off to play Franklin College for a year, then transferred to Marian University for the next three and played basketball at both colleges. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Marian in 1980, then returned to North Putnam to spend his professional career while living in Fincastle, Bainbridge and Putnamville.
Brothers has served as North Putnam’s varsity coach in boys basketball for eight seasons (1988-96), its varsity coach in girls basketball for three seasons (2009-12), its varsity baseball coach for two seasons (1985 and 1986), its varsity softball coach for three seasons (2008, 2009 and 2010) and its athletic director for eight years (1995-2003).
He has been a North Putnam assistant coach in boys basketball for six seasons (1980-86), baseball for five seasons (1981-84 and 1995), football for six seasons (1980-85), softball four seasons (2004-07) and girls basketball for eight seasons (2004-09 and 2017-present).
Brothers, who also earned a master’s degree from DePauw University in 1985 and was a men’s basketball assistant for the 1987-88 season at Wabash College, described the opportunity to remain in his “home” corporation for an entire career as a blessing.
“I’ve been able to teach and coach my classmates’ kids and now their grandkids, watched my former players and students grow and for many of them, teach and coach their kids,” Brothers said. “By knowing the community so well, I’ve not had to make a lot of adjustments in learning the culture of the area. It’s been a positive thing, I believe, to know the people, culture and expectations of the community and to grow with it.
“I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again at the same place. I’ve had the opportunity to work with fantastic fellow teachers and coaches at North Putnam, and the student-athletes here have been outstanding and given me a lifetime of great memories. It’s always been ‘family’ at North Putnam.”
Brothers, an athlete in the 1970s, helped North Putnam capture boys basketball sectional titles as a junior and senior with back-to-back 20-4 seasons. As a coach, he guided the Cougars to another boys basketball sectional title in 1990 and was an assistant for the school’s only softball sectional winner in 2006.
“Winning is great, but the players whom I have coached and the coaches whom I have been coached by and coached with have been the absolute best,” Brothers said. “Even today, after all of these years, leaving the players coming through our program is so very, very hard to do. The kids we have and have had at North Putnam have been a big part of my life and have been a true blessing to me.”
IBCA Assistant Coach of the Year: J.R. Moffatt, Hamilton Heights boys
J.R. Moffatt has been the freshman team coach and boys basketball program assistant at Hamilton Heights High School for 31 seasons.
Moffatt has worked with three varsity coaches during his time with the Huskies — Kirby Overman for two seasons, Bill Bowen for 16 seasons and Chad Ballenger for 13 seasons. Officially, he has been the freshman team coach while helping with the varsity and JV teams for all these years. Unofficially, he has been a mentor to the coaches, too.
“J.R.’s relationship with the coaches at Hamilton Heights is also important,” Wadsworth said. “J.R. was Bill Bowen’s next-door neighbor when Bill was the head coach. After a difficult loss or a bad day at practice, many conversations and words of encouragement were shared in Bill’s driveway.”
Moffat also has served the community as a pastor at Arcadia Christian Church since 1987.
Moffatt is a 1983 graduate of Columbus East High School, where he played basketball for coach Roger Reed and baseball for coach Lou Giovanini. His Olympian baseball teams finished 30-4 and 28-5 in his junior and senior seasons. Moffatt went on to Cincinnati Christian University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Christian ministries and also played basketball and baseball. His CCU basketball squads, under coach Tony Wallingford, captured National Christian College Athletic Association national championships in 1985, 1986 and 1987.
Moffatt has also coached baseball at Hamilton Heights. He was the Huskies’ varsity baseball coach in 2018 and 2019 after serving the two previous years as an assistant coach in that program.