John Hall, Sr
Hall headed to the Hall One of area's most-respected coaches part of ACBF's first class of inductees
By CHRIS LARICK Staff Writer
In some respects, Jon Hall's basketball coaching resume reads like a road map of Ohio. From Chesterville (Morrow County) to Conneaut to Kenston to New Philadelphia to Kent Roosevelt to Solon to Edgewood. Then, quick trips to Fairport, SS. John and Paul, back to Edgewood, then to and Berkshire with a couple of stops as an assistant with the Conneaut girls. As a head coach, he finished (if he is indeed finished) with an overall 333-214 (.609) wonloss record. "Each time I left it was always for a bigger position," Hall, who will join 10 others as the first inductees into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame on April 6, said. "It would seem like I would get an itch and had something else to prove. I always tried to make sure I would take over a program that wasn't winning. It was a great challenge but it kept me young, kept me abreast of (the players). "Sometimes it was difficult on my family. But I never went anywhere without their say-so. My wife, June, always supported me and I never left a place because I had to." Hall took up the game at Kent State High School in Kent, playing tough defense as a guard and leading his team in assists. When he graduated in 1954, he went to Elon College (now Elon University) in Elon College, N.C., where he had hopes of making the basketball team. "They had an excellent team there," Hall said. "They went to the NAIA tournament two of the four years I was there. "I became close friends with the basketball coach, Doc Mathis, (and) worked with him a lot in physical education classes and with basketball. He was a great fella, did a lot for me then." Hall's connections, which also included Bill Sudeck and Frank Spechalski, the head coaches at Case and Western Reserve respectively, provided him great aid in his career, including recommendations for jobs. "They were big influences in my life," Hall said. "They took care of me in the fifth grade. "Frank was one of the organizers of the U.S. Sports Academy in Mobile, Ala., where my son, Jon, and Jay Corlew got their master's degrees. Frank was the big man on campus. He was able to influence (schools)." Thanks to his good recommendations, Hall was able to get a high school head coaching job right out of college, taking the reins at Chesterville High School in Morrow County, not far from Mount Gilead. "We won the league championship one of my two years there," Hall said. "Then I went to Conneaut and served under Andy Garcia for three years as assistant football and assistant basketball coach." The Spartans had a couple of good teams while Hall was there, including a couple of the best guards he ever had ("next to my son") Hall emphasizes, Bob Naylor (a junior) and Tom Ritari (a sophomore). "We also had some really good shooters, one of the best pure shooters I've been associated with, Tom Naylor. Garcia was a great experimenter and we got along well. It was like being a co-coach. He was willing to listen any time. "We spent a lot of time together. I did most of the scouting and he sent me to clinics." After three years at Conneaut, Hall landed the head coaching job at Kenston, where he would spend one of his longest coaching stints, nine years. "They hadn't had a winning season for years," Hall said. "I had some exciting teams there. We went to districts at least three or four times. My goal was to have a good defense. I played all man-to-man then and had some good ballplayers there, too." Hall's team was Chagrin Valley Conference champion in 1970 and 1972 and made it to the regionals in 1972 where it lost to Poland, 82-54. That was the last time Kenston won the CVC, according to Jon Hall, Jr. The Bombers had seasons of 19-4 and 1/25/2018 TheACBF.com - Hall of Fame Archives 2/3 18-3 during Hall's tenure. In 1972, New Philadelphia, a Division I school with a perennial losing record, lured Hall away from Kenston. "I was at New Philadelphia for two years and we went to districts both years and won the Cardinal Conference championship while I worked on my master's at the University of Dayton," Hall said. In his two years at New Philly, Hall went 17-5 and 17-4 and recorded its first winning season in 19 years. In 1975, Kent Roosevelt called Hall. That job was attractive because he was returning to his hometown, Kent, where he was supposed to be reunited with an old friend, Harold Andreas. But Andreas retired from high school coaching and took a job with Bobby Knight, as his assistant at Indiana. "He was an excellent basketball man," Hall said of Andreas. He was Bobby Knight's assistant at Cuyahoga Falls, where Knight coached before he went to Army. "I never had a problem getting jobs," Hall said. "I always had good tutelage." "That program was a shambles," Jon Hall, Jr. said. "When Dad got it, they went 3-16, 8-13 and 10-11 and won their first sectional in abut eight years. They lost to Central-Hower in the district semis." Kent Roosevelt had been suffering with losing seasons, too. Ritari, who had accompanied Hall to Kenston and would again to Solon, was his assistant from 1975-78. At Solon for the 1978-79 season, Ritari and another assistant got riffed after the basketball team went 11-8. "I didn't think I wanted to stay there," Hall said. It was clearly a loyalty issue with him. Meanwhile, in 1979 Hall ran into Ed Batanian, athletic director at Edgewood and another who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Apr. 6. "He was talking to me to come to Ashtabula," Hall said. "He talked me into coming to Ashtabula, where I've been ever since." The Warriors went 20-3 Hall's first year, led by his son, Jon Jr. at point guard and center Jeff Cicon, then 13-8, 8-13 and 6- 15. "That was probably the best group of individuals I've had," Hall said of his first team at Edgewood, "probably the best I've seen as a team. They had great leadership with my son Jon and the big guy, Jeff. Jon played point guard and those two guys got along with each other. Jeff did the scoring and the inside play and Jon was the leader. If they had the threepointer than, Jimmy Welty would have been a prolific scorer. "They hadn't won in a number of years and wanted to win. I was lucky enough to have Mark McKinney and Bart Kanicki, plus one of the great sixth men, Greg Kolasinski. Bob Frey and Jay Corlew came off the bench. It was a great bunch." Hall went into administration after the 1982-83 season, first at Braden, then at Edgewood High School. Al Goodwin took over the Warriors and did a good job. Then, Edgewood hired Dick Heath to replace him. Heath had a good year his first season, taking the Warriors to the regionals in 1990-91, went 18-4 in 1991-92 and won a second straight sectional championship, then went winless (0-21) in 1992-93. Hall returned to coach the team again between 1993 and 1995, going 12-10 and 14-9 and notching two sectional championships. "The first year, they were coming off an 0-21 year," Hall said. "I had a great ballplayer, Ryan Ball. He was one of the greatest scorers I'd had, really blossomed and was willing to be coached." Hall also coached Fairport one season, going 11-11 in 1995-96, and had one season at SS. John and Paul (4-17), but doesn't really like to talk about those seasons. "That was different," he said. "That was just something to do to fill time." But he classifies his one-year stint at Berkshire in the 2001-02 season differently. "Last year, Berkshire called in October, saying their coach had resigned and asking me to go there. I took Jon along as my assistant. It was a great year. (Jon) is one of the most knowledgeable basketball people I know. The people of Berkshire were fantastic. "But I couldn't take the drive. I had forgotten what energy it took to be a head coach. They were really good to us and I wish Jon had continued." Between his one-year stints at those smaller area schools, Hall became Ritari's assistant with the Conneaut girls team. Though it was a role reversal for him, since Ritari had always been his assistant, Hall has found he likes coaching girls. "They wanted to have fun, but they're people who pay attention; they think I'm the grandfather. "I've been fortunate to have people like Tom as assistants. I've had Al Goodwin and Joe Prugar my last two years at Edgewood. They're three of the best assistants I've had because they're loyal and they willing to work hard. "I would never have been so successful without the great help, the people around me, going back to Andy Garcia. You have to be loyal to people, then they in turn will be loyal to you. When I came here (to Edgewood), they wanted me to do some coaching, then said if an administration job came up, they'd be willing to look at me. Jerry Peterson and I have been good friends ever since. Then one of the best superintendents I've worked for is Rich Markwardt at Berkshire. " I can't remember a kid I didn't care for. I couldn't have done it without my wife. My son, Jeff, is one of the best defensive players I've ever had." When Jon Hall Jr. isn't teaching fifth grade at Kenston Middle School, he's doing radio broadcasts of high school games on WFUN. "Jon has said there's too many politics in coaching and he loved doing the radio work," Hall said. "He found another way he can be around (high school basketball). I would have really liked it if Jon and Jeff could have coached together." Jeff currently works for Metropolitan Bank, soon to be Sky Bank. He keeps in high school basketball by officiating boys games. Hall's one daughter, Jodie, was a cheerleader, first at Edgewood and later at Bowling Green State University. She's now a second-grade teacher at Chestnut Elementary School in Conneaut and is married to Spartans football coach Ken Parise. But Hall gives the biggest share of the credit to his wife, June. "Now and then, I have to tell her she's not the coach," Hall joked. "After 45 years, she's learned a little bit about the game, too. She's become a basketball junkie, too. "Basketball's kept me young. Every year I got older, but the kids were the same age." Of his selection to the Hall of Fame, Hall said, "I'm quite surprised and honored to 1/25/2018 TheACBF.com - Hall of Fame Archives 3/3 be named. I think it's a good step for basketball. The Foundation should certainly be commended for doing it."