Hitchcock directed PV to plenty of thrills Legendary Lakers coach to be inducted into ACBF first class of Hall of Famers
By CHRIS LARICK Staff Writer
Bob Hitchcock always aimed to be a coach. When it came time to pull the trigger on a job at a larger school, though, Hitchcock, a longtime Pymatuning Valley High School, couldn't pull the trigger. Hitchcock will be one of the 11 inductees into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame April 6. First a player, then a coach at PV, Hitchcock never strayed far from his roots. "Four or five schools a lot bigger than here offered me jobs," Hitchcock said. "My old friend, Andy Garcia, offered me one at Conneaut. I had a chance to go to Brookfield. Rob Winton's dad (Doug Winton) interviewed me at Madison. I had a chance to go there, too. "But I always enjoyed it here. I stayed at PV and enjoyed it. Every coach has to go through some controversy from the local fans." As a player, Hitchcock was good enough to start the Lakers' final tournament game as a freshman. He then started at point guard for PV in his sophomore, junior and senior seasons, playing against the likes of Conneaut's Harry Fails and Geneva's Lyle Pepin. Bob Miller was one of Hitchcock's outstanding teammates. "I was the point guard," Hitchcock said. "My brother and teammates accused me of shooting too much. My brother, Gordy, played with me for two years. "I scored quite a bit. I used to have the records at the school, but now I'm like fifth in our school's history, with not quite 1,000 points." In his senior year, 1962, the Lakers made it to the regionals before being beaten by Berlin Hiland in overtime at the Canton Fieldhouse. Hitchcock attended Otterbein for a year, hoping for a chance to play basketball, but never got one. He came back to Northeast Ohio to finish his college degree at Kent State University, majoring in education. He returned to Pymatuning Valley as athletic director/physical education teacher/basketball coach in 1970. "I served in that capacity for about five years," Hitchcock said. "I ran into some difficulties with the board of education and got out of coaching. I was out for about four or five years than came back (in the 1981-82 season) stayed until I retired when Anthony LaCute and Jared McNeilly were juniors (through the 1996-97 season)." Hitchcock, who compiled an outstanding 239-177 (.575) record in 20 seasons at the helm of the Laker boys, admits that retirement has changed his life a bit. "Every day is Sunday," he said. "I've enjoyed my time off. "I go to a lot of basketball games. I miss game nights but I don't miss practices and summertime (camps). But I miss the kids. There were an awful lot of good kids who played for me, a lot of fond memories. "I hope it was easy to play for me. As long as they gave the effort it was enjoyable for me. I was fortunate enough to have players who were real good guys and won some games." Some of Hitchcock's favorite games came against county rivals. One of his biggest victories came against Newton Falls in the early '70s. "They were ranked in the state. The coach there, Gene Zorn, was a good friend of mine. We beat them down in Warren." One of Hitchcock's best teams was the 1987-88 team, led by Bob's son, Doug, and his nephew, Gordy. Other key players on that team were leading scorer Steve Oman, Sean Freeman (who, like Oman, became a 1,000-point scorer), Rod Brown and Jason Poole. 1/25/2018 TheACBF.com - Hall of Fame Archives 2/2 "All of those players except Rodney graduated from college and are doing well," Hitchcock said. That team made it to the district finals before being ousted by Hawken, starring O.J. McDuffie, who was to become a star wide receiver with the Miami Dolphins. "We were ahead with a minute to go," Hitchcock said. "It was a great game. A fellow at Hawken said it was one of the greatest games he'd ever seen. We had a great year. The chemistry of the players was so good." Hitchcock takes pride in his players' accomplishments. One of his former players, Maurice McDonald, is a lieutenant-colonel in the army. Another, Jimmy Malz, is an important financial officer in the Key Bank office in Cleveland. Hitchcock, who won 10 league championships (eight in the Grand River Conference, two in the East Suburban Conference) and four sectional championships during his tenure, is pleased to be among the first batch of former basketball players and officials who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. "When I was called about it, I was thinking back to when they started the (Ashtabula County)Touchdown Club in the '70s," he said. "I told the old guys they should do one for basketball, now they've done it. "Basketball has been my life. I'm glad those guys took the initiative to do it. We used to have a (basketball) coaches association. I'm a past president of that. As you go through coaching, you're not just worried about wins and losses. Some guys who are a little older than me have had a lot of success. I'm happy they thought of me." Bob and his wife, Marcia, have three children - Doug, who played on Hitchcock's last great team in 1987-88 and is now principal at Leavittsburg LaBrae High School; Jackie Dolan, whose husband played for Hitchock and who now lives in Madison; and Kimberly Hitchcock, who is in the U.S. Air Force in Great Falls, Montana and who will be leaving for Korea soon. Hitchcock has fond memories of the Star Beacon, too. "They did a great job of following us when I was a kid in high school," he said. "I have a lot of memories of an old sports write at the Star Beacon, Jim Landis. I give him a lot of credit for getting me All-American. My brother and I were pallbearers at his funeral." HITCHCOCK NO MYSTERY PV 1970-71 - 11-10 S 1971-72 - 4-15 1972-73 - 14-6 GRC 1973-74 - 8-11 GRC 1981-82 - 17-5 GRC 1982-83 - 11-9 GRC 1983-84 - 14-7 GRC 1984-85 - 6-15 1985-86 - 14-7 1986-87 - 12-9 GRC 1987-88 - 22-1 GRC S, DF 1988-89 - 11-10 GRC 1989-90 - 17-5 S 1990-91 - 7-14 1991-92 - 19-3 ESC, S 1992-93 - 10-11 1993-94 - 12-9 1994-95 - 4-17 1995-96 - 8-13 1996-97 - 18-3 ESC Totals - 239-177 (.575) Key - GRC denotes Grand River Conference championship, ESC denotes East Suburban Conference championship, S denotes sectional championship, DF denotes reached district finals.