Former Lawrence Central coach set for Hall of Fame induction


The timing of being selected for induction into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame surprised former Lawrence Central High School coach Al Gooden Sr.

Gooden retired as the Bears boys coach following the 2022-23 season.

“The call came much quicker than what I thought,” he said. “It’s good to be acknowledged by your peers for doing what you enjoy doing.”

Gooden will be inducted as part of the class of 2024 at the men’s basketball awards dinner March 20 at Primo Banquet Hall in Indianapolis.

Gooden said he never thought about making the Hall of Fame while coaching.

“You don’t coach for that reason,” he said. “You coach to help kids and stay close to the game. That was my purpose. I just wanted to stay close to the game and give back to the game.”

As a player, Gooden said his highlight was being on the first Ball State University team to play in the NCAA Tournament after winning the Mid-American Conference Tournament in 1981. He said it also was the first Ball State team to win 20 games. He was named All-Mid-American Conference as a junior and senior.

Gooden, a 1977 graduate of Fort Wayne Wayne High School, averaged 20 points and 14 rebounds as a senior.

As a coach, Gooden led Fort Wayne Harding to the Class 2A state title in 2001 and led Harding to four state runner-up finishes, three in Class 2A (2002, 2005, and 2006) and one in Class 3A (2008)

Previously, Gooden was named to the Ball State Athletics Hall of Fame and Wayne Athletics Hall of Fame.

Gooden won a combined 523 games in 35 seasons as a head coach at Heritage, Harding, New Haven and Lawrence Central. He became the first Black coach to get 500 victories in the state.

The Lawrence resident became Lawrence Central’s coach in 2014. His 2018-19 team finished 22-4 and won the sectional title.

Gooden said his first year of retirement wasn’t difficult because he stayed involved with the game as a fan.

“I was ready to do it,” he said. “I had been in it as a head coach for 35 years, and if you added being an assistant, I’ve been coaching for at least 40 years.”

Gooden’s son, Al Gooden Jr., coached the Lawrence Central junior varsity team. His son Al Gooden III was a sophomore player for the Bears.

“I went to all their games this year,” Gooden said. “When Lawrence Central didn’t have a game, I went to other teams’ games.”

Gooden said he watched some coaches who had served as his assistant coaches. One of those coaches is Guerin Catholic head coach Bobby Allen.