From Saffell Street to state runner-up

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By John Herndon

The world is smaller than Disney ever dreamed. Just ask Lex Lindsey.

Considered one of the top girls' basketball coaches in Kentucky, Lindsey guided Franklin-Simpson's girls' basketball team to within a point of the school's first state championship. The Wildcats came up just short, falling to Butler 58-57 in the state championship game Saturday night in Bowling Green.

But last week, before the Wildcats' first round opponent was determined, Lindsey was hoping he would be going up against Anderson County to open the run.

"I hope we get to play just so we can tell stories," Lindsey had said in an e-mail before the Eighth Region championship game.

He knew more about Anderson County than the fact that the Lady Bearcats won 24 games and were, in his words, "the type of team you would expect to see in a regional final."

At one time, Lindsey was a Bearcat.

"Oh, I remember Saffell Street School," Lindsey said last Sunday as he was scouting the Eighth Region semifinal round at Shelby County High School. "Mrs. Southworth was my first grade teacher and in the second grade, I had Mrs. Felkel."

Lindsey's father, Jim, served two years as boys' basketball coach at Anderson County High School. The Bearcats were good, winning the 29th District and making the regional semi-finals both seasons. But coming right after the Bearcats had been state runner-up, those 1971-72 and 72-73 seasons are often overlooked.

Now in his fifth year at Franklin-Simpson, those times are still vivid 35 years later. At the time, the 6-year-old with coal black hair was a fixture at Bearcat practices and games, then tagging along with players afterwards.

"I remember Emmitt Murphy and I spent a lot of time at David Shryock's house," Lindsey says. "It seemed like I was always at the Shryocks."

The younger Lindsey had also pondered the possibility of coaching against one of his father's former pupils, Tony Kays. "I wonder if Tony was one of those players who used to lock me in the lockers," he laughed.

Jim Lindsey returned to the Glasgow area and Lex graduated from Barren County High School in 1983, then played college basketball for two seasons at Florida College in Temple Terrace, the same school for which David Shryock played a decade earlier.

Lindsey served as a boys assistant at Warren Central before moving to the town located halfway between Bowling Green and the Tennessee border.

Lex Lindsey bears a striking resemblance to his father, down to the smile and deep eyebrows that nearly meet on the bridge of his nose.

"But I have a lot more hair," Lex laughs.

As Lindsey talked Lady Bearcat assistant Wayne King stopped by to introduce himself and offer Lindsey congratulations on winning the Fourth Region. King replaced Jim Lindsey as Bearcat head coach in the summer of 1973.

The Franklin-Simpson team won 18 straight, including a bit of an upset over Elizabethtown in the state semifinals, before falling Saturday night.

As for his father, who had the unenviable task of being the first to lead the Bearcats in the post-Jimmy Dan Conner era, Lex says, "He's retired now. He's been retired 5 or 6 years. He was principal of Park City Elementary School in Barren County.

"He's playing golf for lunch and cards for dinner. He's not losing any weight so I am not worried about him," Lex Lindsey said with a laugh.

And last week, Jim Lindsey was one proud father, watching his son direct Franklin-Simpson within a whisker of the state championship with some old ties to Anderson County showing up in the process.

Lex Lindsey could only manage a broad smile at the thought.

"It really is a small world," he said.