The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


July 22, 2013

A Don McCormack column: Turnover aplenty in boys hoops

No matter how many games are won or lost, or which teams, if any, make any kind of run along the tournament trail, the 2013-14 will be one of historic proportions for Ashtabula County boys basketball.

The subtitle for the 2013-14 campaign is obvious — The Season of Change.

For come December, when the season tips off, six of the eight boys basketball programs will have new men at the helm.

The list of the departed:

  • Geneva — Scott Torok.
  • Grand Valley — Luke Strohm.
  • Jefferson — Jeremy Huber.
  • Lakeside — Mark Taylor.
  • Pymatuning Valley — Ryan Fitch.
  • St. John — Ryan Harco.

The list of the guys filling their shoes:

  • Geneva — Matt Vespa.
  • Grand Valley — Matt Brumit.
  • Jefferson — Steve French.
  • Lakeside — To be determined.
  • Pymatuning Valley — Ryan Shontz.
  • St. John — Jon Hall.

That leaves only Tim Tallbacka at Conneaut and John Bowler at Edgewood as the men who will be returning to their respective sidelines in the 2013-14 season.

How rare is this much turnover for boys basketball in Ashtabula County?

Consider, our research goes back more than a century — to 1896, to be exact — and we've never found a season with this much change in terms of head coaches from the previous campaign.

In fact, the most changes we have for the county as a collective from one season to the next is three.

Our records show that has happened only six times in county boys basketball history:

  • 1965-66.
  • 1983-84.
  • 1992-93.
  • 1993-94.
  • 1998-99.
  • 2011-12.

The holdovers

Tallbacka, a star during his playing days at Harbor High School and then at Hiram College, will be entering his eighth season at the helm at Conneaut. He has been a varsity boys basketball coach in the county for the last 14 seasons, three at Ashtabula, four at Lakeside and the last seven at Conneaut.

“This is a situation that, really, circumstances have led to such a big turnover happening,” he said. “It’s just one of those things, I believe.”

Bowler, who played at Ashtabula High School, has spent seven seasons as head boys coach in the county, the last two at Edgewood and a five-season run at St. John (from 1987-88 through 1991-92).

“Isn’t this amazing?” Bowler said with a laugh. “It’s definitely strange, when you think about how many guys have changed.

“But it’s just the situation. Like (Jefferson coach) Jeremy. He was offered an opportunity to become a principal and that’s something he just couldn’t turn down, so he had to give up coaching.”

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