Dennis Bentzler has been a fixture in the hallways of Taylor High School since he started as a freshman in the fall of 1968. Now, he is considered the ultimate Taylor Titan while striving to prepare students for the future. (Herald photo / provided)
Dennis Bentzler has been a fixture in the hallways of Taylor High School since he started as a freshman in the fall of 1968. Now, he is considered the ultimate Taylor Titan while striving to prepare students for the future. (Herald photo / provided)
This is part of the monthly Kokomo Herald Hallway Heroes series. A Hallway Hero is a non-teaching school employee who impacts student’s lives outside of the classroom and in the school hallways.

When Taylor High School needs help, there is a short list of names the school will call upon. At the top of the list is someone who is as much a part of the lore of Taylor as the school itself. Dennis Bentzler is not only a graduate of the high school in Center, Indiana, many say he is actually Mr. Titan himself.

“It is what I love,” understated Bentzler. “This is a great school and a great community.”

Taylor High School Principal Eric Hartman said Bentzler is part of the fabric of the school.

“When I think of Dennis Bentzler, I think of Taylor; he is an institution,” said Hartman. “When you think about who is the most loyal and dedicated advocate for Taylor Schools and the kids who live in our district, it is Dennis Bentzler – hands down! It is not just coaching – he believes in all of our students and activities.”

According to the 64-year-old Bentzler, he has lived within three miles of Taylor High School since his family relocated to the area in 1961. The 1972 graduate and former Titan student-athlete had hopes of becoming a college coach, but circumstances did not allow for that and he found himself in the high school coaching ranks at his alma mater.

“My goal was to coach at the college level, but we got stuck here. I don’t mean that in a bad way because my wife and I had children and we raised them right here,” said Bentzler, who had a career working at Delphi and General Motors. “They all walked the halls and graduated from Taylor. It is who we are.”

He said he “kind of just fell into” the coaching ranks, which started at the Little League level with his son. Since then, he has served as the head varsity coach for football, softball and girls basketball while also working in other programs through the years. In girls hoops, which he is best known for, he retired last year with a record of 254-241.

“I don’t miss the games at all; I do miss the teaching,” he said. “Coach (Tony Oliver) will still call me over on occasion to teach something, which I love.”

Bentzler, who remains the Titans head football coach, said his love for the school went beyond the X’s and O’s of coaching – he strived to make a personnel connection with every student who crossed his path during his decades at Taylor.

“I have always enjoyed the relationships with the kids,” said Bentzler. “I have been lucky; you have to demand respect and not every kid is the same. It is my responsibility to know what makes each kid tick and how I can make them successful people in and out of the classroom. I have always tried to do the right thing by the kids.”

While he is known as Coach B to most in the Taylor community, he is much more than a coach – he is an advocate for the kids who walk the halls.

“I always thought Dennis was in the wrong profession,” said Hartman, who previously coached with Bentzler. “I always thought he should have been a teacher. He is one of the most competitive guys I know as a coach, but he is interested in the development of the full person. Very rarely do you have that student-athlete come from a school our size who is going to be an NCAA Division I player, and Dennis gets that – he gets that you can teach lessons that cannot be taught in the classroom.”

Hartman said Bentzler is loved by the students who walk the halls of Taylor Schools, noting his reach is far beyond coaching.

“He doesn’t take shortcuts. He understands what it means to be dedicated to something,” said Hartman. “The guy has put a lot of his own resources financially into programs at Taylor that were not his. He wants to make Taylor first class.”

Bentzler, who recently enjoyed his first Christmas vacation in 29 years following his retirement from coaching basketball, said he bleeds the Taylor red and black. Both of his children, Jason and Shelley, graduated from Taylor and are now both educators. And he is still a frequent visitor to Taylor events and a fixture in the halls.

“I don’t even want to think about the hours and money that my family has put in out here, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” he said. “For my wife and I, this has been our life – and still is our life. Jason (son) graduated in 1991 and Shelly (daughter) in 1994. My wife and I are still involved in the Booster Club and still come to a lot of games. We just enjoy it and it is what we do. I would not trade this school and community – I would not want to be anywhere else. This is where I belong.”

Dennis Bentzler is a legend at Taylor High School who truly cares for the students, and for that, he is also a Kokomo Herald Hallway Hero.