For love of the game
Schulte's passion for basketball translated to success at Harbor
By Chris Larick
For the Star Beacon
It wouldn't be surprising to discover that 1982 Harbor graduate Dana Schulte has orthopedist Dr. William Seeds on his speed dial.
"I just had my fifth knee surgery," Schulte recently said. "Dr. Seeds is one of my good friends."
Schulte is in the process of rehabbing the knee now. Otherwise, he'd be on the basketball court at the Ashtabula YMCA with friends Andy Juhola, Jim Chiacchiero and Augie Pugliese. As soon as he's able to, that's where he'll be again, defying the gods of human anatomy. That's how much he loves basketball.
"I'm stupid like that," said Schulte, who will join Juhola and Chiacchiero in the Ashtabula Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame on Apr. 12 at the Conneaut Human Resources Center.
Schulte was inducted into the Ashtabula County Touchdown Club last December. The honor was certainly deserved, since he starred as a quarterback at Harbor from 1978 to 1981 and again at West Virginia Wesleyan and Ohio Wesleyan from 1982 to 1986, with a year off because of transfer.But his favorite sport was always basketball, from the time he started playing with his four older brothers in the family driveway,
"In the first, second and third grade I was always outside," he said. "We'd shovel the snow off in cold weather and play basketball."
By the time he was in the fifth grade, Schulte had developed his game enough to make the sixth grade team at Thomas Jefferson with friends Raimo Kangas and Kirk Wilburger.
"We started together," Schulte said. "That was one of the reasons we performed so well at high school."
When that group reached Columbus Junior High it was joined by Saybrook additions Dean Hood and Pat Colucci.
DANA SCHULTE warms up before a game diring his time at Ashtabula Harbor.
DANA SCHULTE shown dribbling up the court during a game for Harbor High School
"That gave us a core all the way through," Schulte said. "We won the freshman championship. My junior year the other players were Mike Ginn and Tom Quinn. When we were seniors, Andy Juhola came up and played with us as a sophomore. He gave us double-doubles as a sophomore. I took him under my wing; I was a captain and he became a complete player."
Under coach John Higgins the Mariners went 17-7 when Schulte was a junior with a sectional championship and one district victory. His senior year Harbor was even better, going 18-4.
"We beat 'Bula three times that year, once in the tournament," Schulte said. "They had always intimidated us and had Terrence Hanna and Kevin Hanna. They beat us up in junior high school, but we won as freshmen. The intimidation factor was less and less."
While the Harbor cast was talented, Schulte gives Higgins kudos for managing it.
"Coach Higgins was one of the the best coaches I ever had," Schulte said. "I loved playing for him. We had such a strong rapport. Coach Higgins was a great motivator, good with the X's and O's and knew how to use people.
"He believed in me, put the ball in my hands as point guard. He was ahead of his time, using the pick-and-roll like you see in the NBA. I have nothing but great memories of Coach Higgins and the things we were able to accomplish. All of our guys worked hard."
Schulte estimates that the Mariners played four to six hours at Brooker Park in the summers.
"All we wanted to do was play basketball," he said. "That gave us so much leadership and accountability. Hard work will get results."
Schulte was more than a basketball player, however. He led the Mariners at quarterback in football, teaming with his best friend, Hood, for one of the best passing combinations in county history.
The Mariners finished 8-2 in football his senior year, beating Geneva but getting beaten by St. John, 8-7, in the wind and mud at Wenner Field after a Harbor punt sailed backward in the wind. Conneaut actually won the NEC championship that year, 1981.
Georgia Tech coaches recruited him as a basketball player when the Mariners played Ashtabula and said later, on the phone, that they were going to offer him a scholarship. But the head coach got fired, and the offer was pulled.
"I thought about playing hoops in college, but I needed a scholarship," Schulte said. "My parents weren't in a position to send me. It got to the end of the summer and West Virginia Wesleyan lost a quarterback and offered me a scholarship. I had nothing else concrete, so I took it."
His freshman year he played in five games, some of it as a quarterback, some at fullback. He wasn't happy.
"They ran the veer and I wanted to throw the ball," Schulte said. "I had filled out to over 200 pounds at 6-2 so I could run, but I wanted to sit back and throw."
His dissatisfaction led to the transfer to Ohio Wesleyan, which changed coaches and also went to the veer.
He did get to throw occasionally, when his team got behind.
"Back then, if you threw it 20-25 times a game you were airing it out," he said.
When he graduated from college, his first job was at a newspaper, the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina, for a short time before returning to Ashtabula to take his first radio job at 102-ZOO, beginning in sales. Within six months he was named sales manager and in nine or 10 months, general manager.
"I've been a General Manager-Vice-President ever since, until about five years later, when I became President of the Media One Group," he said.
In 1984, his year of ineligibility caused by the transfer from West Virginia Wesleyan to Ohio Wesleyan, Schulte played basketball for the Kent State Ashtabula branch campus.
"I was the MVP," he said. "Basketball was always my first love."
After Schulte graduated from college, KSU-Ashtabula athletic director Bob Dulak hired him as the coach there.
"I was 24 when I started that job," he said. "(Dulak) later said that was one of the best hires he ever made. I took it so seriously. My first year we were only 1-16 or so, the next year we won five or six, then the third year we were 14-6 or something like that. We were building the program, but (Kent State) stopped (athletics on the branch campuses).
"I really enjoyed it. I was living in Ashtabula at the time. I put so much time and effort into it. I would have done it another 10 years."
Schulte will soon resume his basketball playing with his friends, bad knee or no bad knee. Meanwhile, he looks back in fondness to his high school days at Harbor, playing with Hood, Colucci, Kangas, Wilburger, Ginn, Quinn and Juhola.
"They can never take away the memories I have," he said. "Not to say that I live in the past, but those are great memories. That led to everything I've done, the leadership, the motivation, the work ethic I learned in high school."
Larick, a retired Star Beacon sports writer, is a freelance writer from Geneva.