Watching his sons coach girls basketball means everything to Stanley Benge
Stanley Benge’s granddaughter Sierra Benge gives her grandfather a kiss before taking the court. (No. 32)
By Mike Beas
The short drive from the assisted living facility where he resides to the doors of the Plainfield High School gymnasium is one Stanley Benge never tires of making.
Diagnosed with throat cancer two and a half years ago, Benge, 89, makes it a point to be at every Quakers girls basketball game regardless of the location. Curt Benge, the youngest of Stanley and Jean Benge’s four children, is in his 25th season as Plainfield’s coach.
In Stanley’s eyes, it might as well be the first.
Informed last winter the cancer spread to his lungs and he might only have between six and 12 months to live, Stanley is wheelchair-bound proof that maximizing every moment of every day isn’t a concept reserved for the young.
Benge is a kid again, regardless of the season Plainfield is having or how it is faring on the court during a particular game.
Curt and Jennifer Benge’s middle daughter, Sierra, is a junior on the team. During player introductions, each of the Plainfield players runs to high-five the man they affectionately refer to as “Grandpa Benge” after her name is called.
Family is important to the Benges, and this is about as family as it gets.
“We’re a close family,” said Stanley Benge. “I’m a man who has been treated with a lot of blessings. Curt’s games…he works hard at it. But I still have my opinion at times.”
Stanley Benge’s oldest son, Stan, is in his seventh season as the Roncalli High School girls basketball coach. Prior to taking the Rebels’ job his teams won four girls basketball state championships at Ben Davis. By late November, Stan, who is 17 years older than Curt, had combined with his brother to post 997 victories with hopes of hitting 1,000 before long.
Plainfield girls basketball coach Curt Benge rallies his team with his dad Stanley Benge watching from the sideline.
Stan’s career mark is 627-171 to Curt’s 370-183. They are ranked second and 12th, respectively, in victories among active girls coaches in Indiana. Stan Benge’s total is fourth all-time in the state, with Curt checking in at No. 31.
Not only have Stanley and Jean attended more than their fair share of girls basketball games, odds are they see their sons squad prevail.
The couple used to make it to both of their sons’ games, whether it was home or away. On days both played, Stanley drove to wherever Curt’s team played, while Jean followed Stan’s squad. Jean used to run the scorebook for Stan’s teams at Ben Davis, a task she happily performed for more than 20 years.
Stanly has his wife of 69 years, Jean, sit side by side at all of the Plainfield girls basketball games.
Eventually, living in Plainfield for the past 19 years made it easier to see more of the Quakers where the high-five tradition began a few years ago.
“If he’s at a game, it happens. I never told them to do it. It just started happening one day,” said Curt Benge. “I mean, I understand if they can’t come to a game, but it definitely feels more complete when you can look up and see them there. You know you can come out of the locker room after a game and kind of decompress a little bit with your parents.”
Stan Benge said his dad is a people pleaser.
“He wants to make people happy,” he said. “And he’s competitive, so there you get the conflict. He coached me in Little League, he saw all of my basketball games before Curt started coaching, and even then he came to the majority of my games.”
Stanley Benge celebrates his birthday Feb. 3. It is a time of year when Curt’s ballclub will be attempting to win its own Class 4A sectional with Stan trying to do the same thing at the Pike sectional.
Two pieces of net would make a nice 90th birthday present.
“I love watching basketball,” Stanley said. “It ties the family together.”
Jozee Rhodes greets Stanley Benge before a game against Western Boone. (No. 5)
(Photos by Rick Myers)
Getting to know Stanley Benge
Who or what inspires you? God and Jesus
What is your favorite book? “Lloyd Ruby: The Greatest Driver Never to Win the Indy 500”
What is your favorite basketball memory? Watching Stan win four state championships and watching (Stan and Curt) coach the Indiana All Star team.
What is your Thanksgiving message? I’ve always been a family man and have been very blessed to have a close family, and I encourage everyone to spend time with your loved ones.
Parting comment: I am grateful to the Plainfield administration for allowing me to be part of the sports program over the years.