The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

July 22, 2013

A Don McCormack column: Turnover aplenty in boys hoops

Sports Editor

— 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:

The list of the guys filling their shoes:

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:

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.”

The new guys

Interestingly, of the new head coaches, four of them — at least — will be making their debuts as varsity boys basketball head coaches next season in Vespa, Brumit, French and Shontz.

The position at Lakeside just came open last week when Taylor resigned after one season at the helm of the Dragons and the district is still accepting applications for the position.

Biggest name

The one known exception to that is Hall, and all he is is a member of the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame.

The man whose son, Jon, is also a member of the ACBF Hall of Fame, will be making his second tour of duty as head coach of the St. John boys in the 2013-14 campaign.

Polar opposite

On the other end of the spectrum is Ashtabula County girls basketball.

At least at this point, all eight head coaches from the 2012-13 season will be back for the 2013-14 campaign:


All of which means this — Tim Tallbacka has a new qualifier to go along with his name.

The Dean of Ashtabula County Boys Basketball Coaches.

“Wow, who would have ever thought that would be the case?” he said through a hearty laugh. “At age 43, no less!”

Which hit home with Bowler, of course.

“I coached against Tim Tallbacka when he was a fine player at Harbor and I was coaching at St. John,” he said, also laughing. “Boy, you’re right... things have certainly changed.”

McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. Reach him at