coach honored for 35 years
When the Bruins play their first game in 2015, they will be playing on Buller Court. No, the school does not have a new gymnasium, but instead recognized longtime boys basketball coach Jim Buller prior to the December 20 Holiday Tourney championship game and announced that the court has been named in his honor.
[videos of the halftime dedication and post-game tributes are further below]
Buller, who coached the Bruins for the past 35 years announced his retirement from coaching just prior to the season in anticipation of his appointment as interim head of school at Bethany beginning January 1, 2015.
During his coaching tenure at Bethany, Buller amassed 371 wins—the most in Elkhart County boys basketball history. His teams have won 4 sectional and 2 regional titles since the advent of class basketball in 1998.
However statistics don’t fully measure the contribution that Buller has made to Bethany and boys basketball. His influence on several generations of players and students has extended beyond the x’s and o’s of basketball and the athletic ability of players. Not infrequently Jim has kept players on the team—rather than cut them—or taken students under his care as managers because he knew they would learn valuable life skills in being part of a team. Relationships are important to Jim—he always has an open door to talk, no matter how busy he is. And he is often seen in the halls chatting with students.
Jeremy Kauffman (’92), executive director of a retirement community who also facilitates a values-based youth leadership program, credits Buller with being a person whose leadership skills he desired to emulate. Kauffman views Buller as a great motivator who took time to understand each player on the team and says, “A sign of a good leader, like Jim, is to look for and nurture those who have certain abilities, and I believe he intentionally worked at helping me to get to where I am today.”
Coaches who work with Jim benefit similarly. Krysten Parson, Bethany’s varsity girls basketball coach and a former assistant under Buller, says: “He doesn’t just teach his players, he teaches his coaching staff too. I learned more from Jim in one year than I had in my previous years coaching.”
His care and concern for his players extends off the court as well. In an age where many coaches/schools demand year-round dedication to one sport, Jim is a vocal supporter of being well-rounded: encouraging his players to play other sports too, sing in choir, volunteer to help others, and to give appropriate time to academics, church, family, and community. And he has modeled that himself, serving not only as coach, but as a teacher, motivator, leader, mentor, friend, and servant of Christ.
Watch video unveiling of Buller Court: