Unlike the 1984 boys state championship basketball team, and the wrestling team that 20-plus years later kept Monroeville on the high school sports map over four consecutive years, this one is of senior vintage.
A coaching staff assembled by Paul Roeder that has Eagle alumni as young as 54 years of age — and as old as 64 — makes Monroeville’s youngest coach the oldest coach of any in the Firelands Conference.
Rather than use players-turned-coaches just out of college, Roeder has asked for coaching help from four Monroeville players who either excelled as individuals or were on teams that were well-remembered by Eagle basketball fans.
That staff includes Ken Leber, 61, who was a teammate of Roeder on Monroeville’s 1975-76 regional runners-up team, and was on conference championship teams his last two years. Don Beck, 54, a member of the 1984 state championship team and also on teams that won back-to-back conference titles is the junior varsity coach.
Rounding out the staff includes Jeff Clark, 64, a 1973 graduate and player on an FC team coach by Jerry Everhart, and Ted Caldwell, who was the ball boy on the 60-year-old Roeder’s high school teams that won three straight FC championships and went 52-7 under the direction of the late Harry Garverick. Individually, Caldwell, who has been with the program in one capacity or another for many years, is also on the school record for single-season career steals.
One would have to be deaf and blind not to recognize that Monroeville’s boy’s basketball program was going the wrong way since “Auggie’s Boys” ran the table in the winter and spring of the 1983-84 season. Many coaches have tried to right the ship, but records show few have been successful.
Take the recent success of five victories in a six-game stretch, which is where the Eagles are entering tonight’s game vs. FC-leading Western Reserve. Remember coach Jim Dillard? His 1985-86 team won five of six at one stretch.
Jeff Winslow, who of recent years has had tremendous success at Upper Sandusky, did it in the 2000-01 season. The last to win five out of six games was Zac Reer in the 2007-08 season.
“And it does start with our coaches,” said Roeder, who is No. 4 (1,015 points) in the all-time scoring list at Monroeville. “And I also sought the advise of another alum, Steve Moore, when I decided to take the job. I had little coaching experience, but Steve told me that my players would care very little on what I knew — but more on how much I cared.
“Hearing that, I sought out four former Monroeville players who have been on successful programs and I knew would have the same coaching philosophy,” he added. “These guys came aboard because they wanted to be part of this turnaround. They are committed.”
Roeder said the coaching side of things isn’t rocket science.
“We are coaching the way we were taught, and for the most part, were all part of championship teams,” he said. “Some of what we teach is old school, but the bottom line is getting the athletes to understand the importance of work ethics. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
“Ted Caldwell was not part of any great teams, but he certainly has tried over the years to turn this thing around,” Roeder added. “There is no harder worker than Ted, who I remember as one of the great all-around athletes at the school. And because of what he has done and because of his solid work ethics, I wanted him to be part of the program.”
Roeder talked about the last two-plus weeks. The Eagles started 0-5 and were competitive for parts of those losses. Since then, Monroeville has wins over Mapleton, Dola Hardin Northern, Crestview, Danbury and Lakota. Mixed in was a 12-point loss at Plymouth on Dec. 28.
“The last few weeks have been interesting to watch,” he said. “We returned a lot of experienced players, but most of them were young, just two seniors. The starting point in this success story is a freshman, a nephew of mine, Isaac Roeder. He has been the rock solid player who can be counted on.
“All of a sudden my shooters, Mason Tonelli and Cody Schaffer started to make shots,” he added. Chayce Schaub became a more efficient and more confident point guard. Eli Sweet is playing the 5-spot well. Anthony Dublo is coming off the bench ready to help. Guys have learned their roles.”
The tough start also included solid opponents such as South Central (8-3), St. Paul (6-3) and New London (5-4).
“Plus, we did not know how to win. We weathered that storm, and since then, found success thanks to a more favorable schedule — and we learned how to win. That overtime win against Mapleton was our turning point. Plus, it put a smile on the face of our fan base. I do not want to let people down. The last couple of weeks have been very rewarding.”
Monroeville athletic director Ben Paul leads the cheers for Roeder and his staff.
“Paul has surrounded himself with people who knows his style of basketball,” he said. “I don’t think he had to sit down with them and explain exactly what as individuals they brought to the program. What he wanted more than anything was a change in the demeanor of the athletes. And Paul believed his coaches could serve him well is reaching that end.
“They have four tough ones (Western Reserve, South Central, St. Paul and New London) coming up, but it sure has fired up the team, the students, and the entire fan base,” Paul added.