BUTLER — Ed Bentley is no stranger to Eastside basketball fans or the Northeast Corner Conference.
He’s guided his teams to many a victory, just from the perspective of a different team bench.
Now, Bentley will lead the Blazer boys basketball team following his hiring by the DeKalb Eastern school board Monday evening.
Bentley coached Westview to a 16-7 record last season, and previously spent parts of eight seasons at Angola, winning sectional championships there in 2016, 2018 and 2019, with 25 wins in 2016.
“I’m pretty excited,” Bentley said. “If you would have asked me three weeks or a month ago if I would be coaching again, I was kind of at the point where I might be stepping away.
“I want to coach. I spent a week-and-a-half, two weeks with Eastside and watched their morning workouts as far as all their athletes,” he said. “I knew their work ethic was just a fit.
“They’ve got a good group coming back. It got the blood flowing again,” Bentley said. “It’s a good match.”
The Blazers finished 17-8 last season, reaching the championship game of the Westview Sectional before losing to Churubusco. Former head coach Ryan Abbott was hired as the new head coach at Carroll, but just two players from that Eastside team graduated.
Bentley, who is working to complete his doctorate, will serve as an assistant athletic director. He hasn’t ruled out a return to the classroom in the future.
The new Blazer coach said defense plays a huge role in what his teams do at the other end of the floor.
“I believe you play to the speed your skill allows you to play,” he said. “Even at Westview last year, we scored more than I’ve ever scored as far as leading a team.
“I just know what’s going to drive us on both ends is that defensive end that’s going to create shots for us,” Bentley continued. “If you want to advance in the tournament, you still have to stop people.
“I think sometimes I get a raw rap that a lot of people see teams playing defense and say that’s a deliberate style,” he said. “Wherever I go, we’re going to play defense and we’re going to take high-percentage shots.
“If you have 6-7 shooters like we do, there might be more shots that go up. I think in my career at the high school level, I’ve honestly only told one team to hold the ball, and that was our first sectional win at Angola against New Haven. They were in a zone and we were up four.
“We just talk about getting rotations, moving the ball side-to-side and then getting a good, high-percentage shot,” Bentley said.
The all-in atmosphere Eastside has cultivated in recent years was immediately apparent to the new coach.
“I’m excited about the basketball group, but there’s a reason why Eastside played for a state title in baseball, why their football is really good, and their basketball team is really good, and that’s because they have the all-inclusive weight program.
“We held a 6:30 workout for basketball, and they went right into what they call ‘speed school.’ It’s what they do,” Bentley said.
“It’s not a shock to them to weight lift and work on their individual sports, but they’re all doing it together.
“Our basketball players are going to go watch football players. They’re all going to support each other, and that excites me to be back in that environment.”
The new coach tips his cap to predecessor Ryan Abbott and the players who want to learn, work hard and get better.
“That’s extremely exciting,” Bentley said. “We can do a lot with just great attitudes. I’m looking forward to becoming part of the Blazer community, getting out there and supporting everybody.
“I’m just gnawing at the bit to get going.”