Josh Eggold bypassed the family business, so to speak, to become a teacher and a high school basketball coach.
His grandfathers, his father and his two brothers all became Lutheran ministers.
While there are those who believe basketball is a religion, not many people confuse preachers and coaches. But Eggold brings a little bit of a mix to the court.
“Before my dad became a pastor, he was a Lutheran school teacher and coached a little bit to where I grew up loving the game,” Eggold said. “He went into ministry a little later on. My family loved basketball and I loved it all my life, so that kind of flowed into coaching.”
Eggold will be coaching on the biggest Indiana high school stage when he leads the Cadets against Greensburg in the Class 3A state championship game at 6 p.m. Saturday in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis.
Eggold's father, Tom, and brother, Thomas, are ministers with Emmanel Lutheran in Fort Wayne. His brother, Danny, is a minister at Our Savior's Lutheran in Springfield, Ill. His grandfathers are deceased.
While Eggold graduated from Concordia University in Seward, Neb., a training ground for many Lutheran educators and ministers, he said he never seriously considered going into the ministry like the other men in his family.
“It's funny, I'm being interviewed all the time now, but the idea of speaking in front of people in a sermon – I always felt like being a pastor was not for me,” Eggold said. “I see both of my brothers and my father and that is a nonstop, relentless job. They're called at all times of the night. It's great, but you have to have a special heart for that kind of thing.”
Eggold's heart is fully in coaching, there's no disputing that. During his 10 years as a coach (four as assistant and six as the head coach), Concordia has become one of the most consistently successful programs in Fort Wayne.
He has a senior-filled team this year as they make the school's first appearance at state with the boys basketball program.
“Coach Eggold, he's a tough coach and he works us hard, but he's always about unison. Defense and unison,” senior forward Thomas Starks said. “He preaches a lot about working hard.”
But while Eggold mentions the 24/7 call of a pastor being one of the challenges on the job, Starks implies he treats his coaching calling the same way. Starks said the whole coaching staff shows a level of caring above and beyond trying to win games.
“I can't imagine having any other coach in the city,” Starks said. “He's been there for us, even outside of basketball. If you need something, his phone's always on and he'll be there for you.”
Austin Harris, another senior, called it a “tough question” to describe the Eggold's style of coaching.
“He really stresses the togetherness of basketball,” Harris said. “I really like that about him. He always pushes us to use each other that way on the court. That's how this team works – we just play together.”
Unity, togetherness, a hard work ethic – those traits aren't too far from the Biblical teachings that Eggold grew up learning and imparts in his job as teacher and coach.
Anyone who watches this Concordia team can see the players have an extra level of bonding that doesn't exist with every team. Some of that is the fact they've played basketball together for six or seven years, including junior D.J. McCall, who is sort of an honorary senior with the core group.
Eggold's style works well with this team, too.
Eggold said as the season has progressed, he has changed a bit in his approach to allow his players to take more leadership.
“At the beginning of the season, I was a lot more hands on, more in the mix of everything we do,” Eggold said. “It seems like in this postseason run, I've turned things over a lot to Ryan (Gross) offensively and Marq (Rogers) defensively and I ask their opinion about a lot of things in the middle of games. In that respect, I feel like we're on the same page.”
During Concordia's semistate win over Andrean, there was a moment where Gross, the point guard, and Eggold, the coach, called for the same play simultaneously, a sign of the cohesiveness between coach and players.
“A big part of coaching is to get the guys to believe in what you're doing,” Eggold said. “The last few weeks, there's been no doubt our guys are on the same page with everything we want to accomplish.”
Is there a bit of a preacher in Eggold? Perhaps. He's not a screamer and doesn't get in players' faces, Starks said, but he'll be firm if a player keeps making the same mistake.
One of the primary strengths of the team is that the players have soaked in the lessons imparted by their coach over the course of the season.
“It's a grind, coaching,” Eggold said. “But the rewards are so great, being in the lives of great young guys like we have here.”
Ministry comes in many forms. Basketball is one avenue, certainly. From their play and their character, it's clear the Cadets have bought into what Eggold has been preaching.