Bobby Plump (R) speaks with 1955 Milan High School graduate Carroll Chambers Wednesday after Plump spoke at the Warsaw Breakfast Optimist Club. Plump made the winning shot for Milan against Muncie Central in 1954 to win the Indiana state boys basketball tournament. 
Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
Bobby Plump (R) speaks with 1955 Milan High School graduate Carroll Chambers Wednesday after Plump spoke at the Warsaw Breakfast Optimist Club. Plump made the winning shot for Milan against Muncie Central in 1954 to win the Indiana state boys basketball tournament. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
Hoosier basketball legend Bobby Plump on Wednesday shot off some parallels between himself and Dr. Steve Hollar, a member of the 1984 Warsaw boys basketball state championship team.

“We talked last night. I’m going to tell you a couple of things we found out,” Plump told the Warsaw Breakfast Optimist Club at its weekly meeting.

In 1984, Warsaw won the Indiana boys basketball state championship. Plump was on the 1954 Milan state championship team, making the winning shot over Muncie Central, with only seconds left on the clock. “Thirty years apart,” he said.

“He told me last night that with 3 seconds to go, he hit two free throws to win, and I said, ‘Isn’t that odd? Do you know how much time was left when the ball went through the hoop? Three seconds. Thirty years apart,’” Plump recalled.

In addition, each team lost only two games in its championship season.

“Think about that. Three seconds and we hit shots that win a tournament. We each lost two games. And – I don’t know about Warsaw but – no one expected us to win, I’ll tell you that,” Plump said.

After the Optimist Club meeting, Hollar mentioned another parallel between himself and Plump. Both wore the No. 25 jersey in high school.

Hollar portrayed Rade Butcher in the 1986 film “Hoosiers” based on the Milan team. In introducing Plump as the guest speaker, Hollar said he first met him in 1985.

“Before meeting Bobby Plump, I met Gene Hackman, and I was not nervous meeting Gene Hackman because at the time I was 19. I had no idea who Gene Hackman was,” Hollar recalled of the actor who played coach Norman Dale in “Hoosiers.”

Hollar continued, “But I certainly knew who Bobby Plump was, and the first time I met him I was nervous as heck.”

He said he and Plump sat and talked for a long time Tuesday at Hollar’s cottage.

“My favorite story of the whole night was one thing: In 1954 – this is your Indiana Mr. Basketball – the way he found out that he was Mr. Basketball was he got a phone call in Pierceville, Indiana. He didn’t have a telephone so he had to go to a local store ... and he had to call Indianapolis collect to find out he was Mr. Basketball,” Hollar said.

While Plump’s winning shot in 1954 is often referred to as “the shot heard ’round the world,” Hollar said it may not be his most famous shot.

“Just a short month after that, he hit another game winner. Many of you wouldn’t know this and he would never brag on himself in this way. He hit the game winner to have Indiana All-Stars beat Kentucky,” Hollar told the Optimists before showing a black-and-white video of the last plays of the 1954 state championship game.

Plump said the first thing to understand about playing then was only 10 players dressed for the game. Of those 10, four were from Plump’s hometown of Pierceville. “Nobody from Pierceville prior to that had ever lettered in basketball,”?he said.

He said the kids in town didn’t like the ones from Pierceville because they were from “the other side of the tracks.” After the Pierceville boys started playing basketball, sentiments changed.

In 1952 “the group that dressed for the state tournament (in 1954) was playing B team. There were seven seniors on our ball club when we won the state in 1954. The seven of us were B team (in 1952). Some of us got to dress for the varsity. We were 20-20 men: You get in the game when we’re 20 ahead or 20 behind,” Plump said.

Coach at Milan then was Herman “Snort” Grinstead.

The team lost the first game of the 1952 season with seven seniors. At halftime in the second game against Osgood, with Milan down 20, Grinstead went into the dressing room and told the seniors that if they didn’t come back and win the game he’d take their uniforms. Milan lost 82-44 and Grinstead kicked the seven seniors off the team after the second game of the season. Plump and Bob Engel were moved to the starting five, and that team beat Batesville, which Milan hadn’t done since 1946. Three weeks later, Milan played Osgood again and beat Osgood by nine.

Milan lost only two games the rest of the season. Batesville beat Milan in the sectional, but seven players would return for the next season. Plump said everyone was  excited, but a month after the season was over, the school superintendent fired Grinstead.

“That didn’t go over well either. They hired Marvin Wood, who was all of 24 years old. He had coached two years at French Lick. Fifty-fifty record. Here he comes in to this situation and think of this: The fired coach is living in Milan, coaching three miles away ... and his wife has a beauty parlor in Milan,” Plump said.

Hackman’s character in “Hoosiers” was based on Wood.

Wood changed Milan’s system from a “run and gun Branch McCracken” to the Tony Hinkle offensive system with more pattern basketball. He changed the defense. Practices were open to the public, but once fans began rumbling about all the changes, Wood closed the practices. “You didn’t do that back then either,” Plump said.

A movement popped up in town to replace Wood with Grinstead. But after Milan won the first five games by about 12 points under Wood, naysayers started calling him “the best damn coach” they’d ever seen.

Milan had never won a regional in its school history. That season it lost four games but won the sectional handily. For the last game of the season, against Osgood, he went to a four-corner offense.

“We used it to keep from getting hurt, but we beat Osgood 36-15 using the four-corner offense. We used it all the way through the tournament in 1953 and ’54, and what a lot of people don’t realize – after never having won a game in the regional – Woody’s first year we go to the Final Four as juniors. We got beat in the afternoon by South Bend Central,” Plump said.

Seven players returned for the 1953-54 season. “Now I’ll tell you why we won the tournament. I don’t think we had the best talent up and down the line, but as I was telling Steve last night, I truly believe we had the best TEAM that played in the tournament and this is why: Marvin Wood was the reason we won by the way.”

He said Wood didn’t have an ego and was willing to learn what he didn’t know.

Carroll Chambers of Leesburg, a 1955 graduate of Milan High School who was at the 1954 state championship game, attended the Optimist meeting Wednesday. Hollar asked her to tell them about Plump.

“We all know – actually I remember – this ball on the hip and where he stood (in the game). I remember that clearly,” she said. “We never thought of, he was the best shot on the team. But it was a team thing. That was a real thing back in 1953-54, it was a real team. ... He was great.”