Honoring the Life and Legacy of Bill Shepherd Sr.
William “Bill” was an Indiana All-Star for a school no larger than a gym class, played basketball and baseball for Tony Hinkle, took Carmel High School from farmland to the IHSAA’s promised land and never bet on a horse longer than a 3-1 shot.
But Bill Shepherd was a sure thing when it came to coaching winning basketball and what he accomplished with his sons was a first that will likely never happen again.
Smitten with a cheerleader from his high school named Edie, Shep made her his wife in 1948 and together they embarked on a basketball journey while raising a family of four that would blossom into 18 grandchildren and 31 great grandchildren.
Shep, who passed away March 14 at the age of 91, was a small-town kid that dreamed big and embodied all that was good about Hoosier Hysteria in the 1950s-60s and 70s.
He coached sons Billy and David to Mr. Basketball honors and put Carmel on the map when high school basketball was king. He amassed a 337-145 record (70 percent) that also included a 50-game home winning streak
Born and raised in Hope, the rugged 6-3 forward led his school of 60 (17 in his senior class) to its first and only sectional and regional titles in 1945 and wore #8 in the annual Indiana/Kentucky All-Star clash.
Shep’s talent earned him a scholarship to Indiana University but while playing Butler his freshman year, he was taken by the fact that the out-matched Bulldogs were beating I.U. because of this strategy that became known as the Hinkle System.
So he transferred to Butler and played three years for Hinkle alongside Buckshot O’Brien and Jimmy Doyle. He wasn’t a star, just a solid starter and he also gave baseball a try – batting over .418 his senior year, a record that stood for over five decades.
The St. Louis Browns showed interest in the left-handed hitter but big Bill decided that coaching was his calling so Hinkle helped him land the varsity job at Mitchell High School when he was only 21 years old.
During the next nine years Shep got Mitchell three sectional championships while also being taught a new technique. “We had a young man who during practice one day jumped up and shot the ball so I blew the whistle and told him that was never going to work,” recalled Shepherd with a laugh back in 1993. “You can’t shoot the ball with your feet off the ground son. Of course that turned out to be the first jump shot I’d ever seen.”
Then in 1958 a little school on the northside of Indianapolis offered him a job. Carmel only had one stoplight back then but Hinkle gave Shep the green light – correctly predicting that area was set to start growing.
In 1966, with sophomore son Billy bombing from all corners of the court, Carmel won its first sectional in 41 years. The Greyhounds repeated that feat in 1967 and went 21-3 in 1968 before losing in the regional. That impressive senior season scored Billy the title of Mr. Basketball.
David Shepherd had been a facilitator for his older brother who could also light up the scoreboard when needed and in 1969 he took over and led Carmel to a 20-0 regular season mark before they bowed out in the regional.
But in 1970, Davey Shep led his team to the State Finals, where they lost in the title game to E.C. Washington despite a record 40-point effort from the senior sniper. And the I.U. recruit captured Mr. Basketball honors – making the Shepherds the only two brothers named Mr. Basketball to be coached by their father.
Cindy Shepherd McCurdy, the lone daughter of the Shepherd clan, naturally married an All-American basketball player, raised four kids while holding down a steady job and spent the past year nursing her father as his health began to fail.
Third son Steve Shepherd played on Carmel’s 1977 state championship and played college hoops at the University of Indianapolis.
When Big Bill retired in 1992 (his grandson Scott had become an Indiana All-Star that year), Carmel had amassed its first 41 state championships during his reign as athletic director and became an annual factor in all IHSAA sports. He was elected into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975 and the Butler HOF in 1997.
After Edie passed away in 2011, Shep found a great companion in Betty Clark and enjoyed playing cards, traveling and attending athletic events for all his beloved great grandkids.
Bill was instrumental in the founding of the Carmel Dads’ Club, a lifelong member of the Carmel United Methodist Church and previously served on the IHSAA Board of Directors for 12 years.
Bill was preceded in death by Edith, his wife of 63 years. He will be greatly missed by his four children Billy (Connie), David (Sally), Cindy Shepherd McCurdy, Steve and his 18 grandchildren and 31 great grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 5-8 p.m. on Monday March 18 at Carmel United Methodist Church with funeral service Tuesday, March 19, at 2 p.m. with a celebration of life from 3-6 at Carmel Methodist Church. Burial will be private.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Carmel Dads’ Club or Carmel United Methodist Church.