SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Selection Sunday may have been a day of elation for the Indiana basketball program, but for one Hoosier coach it was the lone bright spot in an otherwise difficult weekend.
Associate head coach Kerry Rupp was already in the state of Utah when the selection committee announced the rest of his team would be joining in his home away from Bloomington. During the weekend of the Big Ten Tournament, Rupp's father-in-law passed away, leading Rupp to leave the team after the loss to Ohio State to be with his family. He expected to have to find a flight to wherever the Hoosiers would be in the NCAA tournament, but to his surprise and his family's delight, the Hoosiers would be flying to him instead.
"Sunday evening, word comes out we're placed in a bracket here in Salt Lake, it was a blessing in disguise," said Rupp. "Unbelievable for me to be able to come home, attend the funeral of my father in law – who by the way is a great man and raised a great daughter, my wife – and then be able to stay here and have the team here, and really be able to come home for a few days, it's been unbelievable."
Rupp, a Utah native, spent the weekend with his wife and five daughters expecting to have to leave them behind to fulfill his coaching obligations.
"It feels good and it was fortunate for me," said Rupp. "I had no idea what would happen and I kept telling my family there was no way they were going to send us to Salt Lake. My daughters came running in the room and told me we'd be playing here and I couldn't believe it. To be able to stay here instead of catching a plane and trying to catch up to the team, it made it so I was able to stay here and really spend time with my family. It gave me a chance to really honor my father-in-law, which I really needed to do."
With the Hoosiers being seeded in the Oakland bracket and playing in Salt Lake City, Rupp will return to the sidelines of the Huntsman Center for the first time since leading the Utah Utes to 2004 Mountain West Conference title. Rupp was an assistant under Rick Majerus at Utah from 2001 until 2003 when Majerus stepped down as head coach because of health issues. Rupp filled the role of interim head coach for one season.
"I made a lot of friends while I was here," said Rupp. "That's the thing about the game of basketball – you make unbelievable friendships that a lot of times are forged through the game. The nature of the game brings you close together. It's fun to see the people that you have really had to go to war with so to speak and the ones that supported you behind the scenes. It's nice to come back here and feel that love and support.
"People are excited, and I have a lot of people that have been great to me and supported me through my years here as a high school coach and onto my career here at Utah as an assistant coach and then as the interim coach, and then continued to support me at Indiana."
Before joining the staff at Utah, Rupp spent 24 years coaching high school basketball in Utah before joining the Indiana staff in 2004. The move took away the comforts of home and moved him away from his family who will be able to see him coach in Utah for the first time since leaving the Utes.
"My family is excited," said Rupp. "With me being in Indiana and giving all my time and effort in regards to recruiting and doing a good job, I really haven't had that much time to come home so I know they're excited about having me here. They've had to become Indiana fans.
"My wife works here at Utah and the baby of the family is here. Then I have three daughters from my first marriage and three grandkids that all live here in Salt Lake. It's been like a homecoming for me."
Homecoming For Hoosier Coach
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