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COLUMN: Golden opportunity for Warrior basketball

West Branch has top-notch candidate right under its nose

April 14, 2012
B.J. LISKO - Salem News Sports Editor ( , Salem News

Let's try this again, shall we? In the spring of 2010 the Salem boys basketball job came open. At the time the Salem News highlighted the candidates out for the position and I lobbied for the hire of former Sebring head coach Brian Clark.

Salem didn't hire Clark but rather went with grizzled Northeastern Buckeye Conference veteran Rich Hart. Hart's resume was solid and his connection to the conference Salem was about to join gave him a step up on his competition.

Clark's tenure in Sebring was a successful one full of accolades. He went 161-88 in 12 seasons winning three conference titles and was the 2002 AP Ohio Division IV Coach of the Year, a two-time AP District Coach of the Year, and the 2005 Ohio High School Boys Coaches Association Coach of the Year.

Sebring hit something of a lull in Clark's latter years and went through a few rebuilding seasons. In his final three years, the team was arguably the smallest in terms of physical stature in the area but they still hovered around the .500 mark. It was somewhat of a shame that Clark didn't get to helm the Trojans the last two seasons when the team gained plenty of size and athleticism, and when Tier 2 of the Inter-Tri County League hit a bit of a lull of its own.

Sebring went out of its way to hire Steve Beshera after voting out Clark and it turn Beshera left after just one season.

It took time for the Trojans to find their footing this year under their third coach in as many years. But once Mark Baia - a former Clark assistant - settled his team down, they became one of the better teams in the area down the stretch and were a win away from the Division IV district final.

Another Clark assistant, Sam Mathias, had outstanding success this season as head coach of the United varsity girls. United won the Tier 1 ITCL title and upset Ursuline for a Division III district title.

It's been a while since West Branch's boys basketball program has been considered an area power. The last standout years they had were under Mike Falasca in 2008 (14-10, district runner-up) and 2006 (16-6).

Since 2000 - the last 13 seasons - West Branch has had just four winning campaigns. In the 10 seasons prior to 2000, they were on the plus side of the ledger just three times, two of those seasons being in 1991 and 1992 under Bob McCosky where they were NBC champs (17-3, '91) and regional runners-up (22-3, '92).

I think you know what I'm getting at here.

If West Branch wants him, and Clark wants West Branch, it would a perfect opportunity for the Warriors to hire a proven winner who could kick-start a stalled program.

In the three-year tenure of the Warriors' most recent coach John Hancock, the team looked its best last season when it was at one point 9-6 and giving all opponents a run for their money.

The team finished somewhat of a disappointing 10-11, but for the first time in few years, it looked like the wheels of the program were finally starting to turn again.

Just like Clark's situation, it's a bit of a shame Hancock won't be able to continue to build on the momentum he garnered, but unfortunately such is the state of high school coaching in 2012.

But now with West Branch looking to go in a different direction, they've got a fantastic candidate with a step-son already in the program right under their nose.

It's a solid Division II job, so I'm sure West Branch will get some quality applicants for the position.

Tim King, who just settled back in at Western Reserve might consider going for it, as could a former coach, maybe a Falasca or a Lou Sellaroli, but all of that is purely speculation.

What is clear is that if it's the right fit for both parties, it could be the start of something very special in Beloit.

Time will tell.



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