Anything but the Norm
Urcheck made his point as part of Koval’s HOF tenure at Geneva
By KARL PEARSON
In basketball, the point guard is generally considered an extension of the head coach, charged with executing what he wants carried out on the court. Some even refer to the point guard as a coach on the floor.
Norm Urcheck was just such a player for the Geneva teams of Bill Koval from 1969-71. Scoring was not Koval’s primary concern for Urcheck. It was all about distributing to the team’s proven scorers like Randy Knowles, Ernie Pasqualone and Mike Blauman and playing lockdown defense against opponents’ leading scorers, at least on the perimeter.
Urcheck was particularly vital to the Eagles in his senior season of 1970-71. He showed his true value to the team in Class AAA tournament play, using his defensive capabilities to help pull off a 44-41 upset over a highly touted Cleveland Heights team coached by famed coach Jim Cappelletti and featuring high-scoring Everett Heard and a youngster named Dennis Greenwald, who would prove to be a thorn in the Eagles’ side two years later.
Norm Urcheck (32) ran the show for Hall of Fame coach Bill Koval's Geneva Eagles. Urcheck will join Koval in the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame on April 10.
Urcheck didn’t score, but he limited Heard to eight points in producing the victory and sending Geneva into its first district-tournament appearance since 1968. Even though he didn’t have great offensive numbers, Urcheck was chosen the outstanding player of the 10-member sectional tournament team.
The tournament trail was ended at that point by a Harvey team coached by another legendary coach figure, John D’Angelo, 55-46, even though Urcheck scored 11 points.
For a time after his high school basketball career, Urcheck set the game aside, concentrating on baseball when he went off to Bluffton College, from which he graduated in 1975. But, through the help of his older brother, Gary, and Maplewood High School basketball coach Tom Titus, he eventually wound up at the school in Cortland.
He started out as the head baseball coach, a physical education teacher and Titus’ assistant basketball coach. By 1979, Urcheck was the Rockets’ head basketball coach, starting out on an eight-year run that saw his teams produce a 141-40 overall record (.779 winning percentage), a school record for victories by a basketball coach, six outright Trumbull Interscholastic Conference titles and two shared championships with a 77-5 league record (.939 winning percentage), two district championships and four other sectional championships.
Koval, an inaugural member of the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame, holds Urcheck in high esteem.
“Norm was a special guy,” he said. “He was a coach on the floor and he was a great defensive guy. He was a heck of an assist man.”
Koval realized long ago that Urcheck had what it took to become a highly successful basketball coach.
“I wasn’t surprised at all when Norm became a coach,” he said. “I believe he was a student of the game.”
Now, Urcheck is joining Koval and his old teammates, Pasqualone and Knowles, in the ACBF Hall of Fame. He will be inducted on April 10.
Nobody was more surprised than Urcheck that he had been selected for such recognition.
“I was shocked,” the 57-year-old Urcheck said. “In the game as I played it, scoring really wasn’t a big thing. At that time, point guards were so important.
“I think point guards tend to get overlooked. It was a pleasant surprise to me that people think enough of me years later to put me in the Hall of Fame.”
It is especially pleasing to Urcheck that he is joining Koval in the Hall of Fame.
“He’s the reason I got into coaching,” Urcheck said. “Once I got out of high school, I got the itch to become a coach. Then Coach Titus really got me hooked on it.
“It’s a real honor to be joining people like Bill, (Knowles) and (Pasqualone). It’s great to be joining players in the same fraternity like Larry Cumpston (who will join him in the Class of 2011), Steve McHugh and Gary Kreilach that I grew up watching.
“It’s great that I’m getting to join guys I played against like (Ashtabula’s) Jim Hood or the Conneaut guys like Scott Humphrey and Tim Richards (also part of this year’s class),” Urcheck said.