How Indiana State Coach Bill Hodges Recruited Larry Bird?

Larry Bird was an Indiana University, Bob Knight basketball dropout coach. He was at home in French Lick and worked as an 18-year-old garbage truck driver.

He stood behind France’s Lick Springs Resort that spring day in 1975, shooting hoops with the cooks. While he was in college, Bird got his basketball fix and practiced his game with the kitchen staff.

A clump of bushes grew back near that basketball goal. And, unbeknownst to Bird, there was a man in those bushes watching, a man named Bill Hodges.

Hodges was a college basketball coach who had bad luck. He came from a job as an assistant at Armstrong State in Savannah, Georgia. His dreams of becoming a great coach seemed unlikely at best. Until he came up with an idea: Larry Bird.

Bird was available.

Indiana State Coach Bill Hodges yells at his team as Larry Bird takes a breather in the late moments of Indiana State's victory over Oklahoma in the Midwest Regional NCAA Tournament on March 15, 1979. Bird scored 29 points with 15 rebounds while team's undefeated run going on.

Hodges grabbed a briefcase, tossed it into the back of his dilapidated Dodge Dart, and turned to his wife, Connie. “If I don’t get this done, then you have my word,” he told her. “No more basketball. I sell insurance, or cars, or whatever to keep a roof over our heads.’

He drove from Georgia to French Lick to find Bird and convince him to play for Hodges, who would become an assistant at Indiana State.

Give a Comment