This is perhaps my toughest story.
In many respects, it is easy because of the subject matter. When I told Mark Huber this was going to be my final season of local sports coverage, I was hopeful one of the Clinton County’s teams would still be playing in the postseason in March.
Unfortunately, our local teams have all been eliminated. However, one school with ties to our area is still alive.
Cincinnati St. Xavier, 18-2 on the year and led by former Wilmington head coach Michael Noszka, will play Huber Heights Wayne 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Centerville High School in one of four Division I Southwest District championship games.
Noszka’s success at WHS was well-chronicled, winning 227 games in 14 seasons before leaving for St. X two years ago.
St. Xavier was 3-33 in GCL games prior to Noszka’s arrival. This year, the Bombers shared their first league crown since 2004-05. All four of the GCL teams are in the district finals. With wins Saturday, St. Xavier and Moeller would meet for a third time in a regional semifinal game.
Did anyone doubt Noszka would achieve this level of success so soon? No.
Noszka was recently named Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association Div. I Coach of the Year for the Southwest District.
His staff reflects many of the same faces that were with him here at Wilmington. David Washington and Dustin Eads accompanied him to St. Xavier, and former assistant Kyle Medley joined the Bombers staff this season. Former Hurricane player Colt Briggs also is a member of Noszka’s staff.
The traits Mike established here at Wilmington remain the same with the Bombers. He demands nothing less than 100 percent effort and expects his team to play hard at both ends of the floor. He preaches accountability. His players must love the game, and their teammates, and you must love to compete at the highest level. That never changes for Noszka.
When he arrived here at Wilmington, I really did not know what to expect from this coach from Wabash, Ind. Intensity, driven to succeed and a passion for the game of basketball is what I noticed immediately.
My son Scott was his manager, and he even held Scott accountable on little things. But, Scott acquired a desire to become a coach after being around Mike.
He was rewarded for his efforts in college when Capital head coach Dixie Jeffers gave Scott a student assistant position which he held for two years.
Many schools wanted Mike to become their head coach. During my time on the Wilmington Board of Education, Mike told me was loyal to Wilmington, and would only leave for the right opportunity.
Mike’s coaching tree has many branches. Nick Molz, an assistant on the 2016 Final Four team, is the head coach at Kings High School. Jermaine Isaac, also on that staff, is head girls coach at Wyoming. Zach Williams, another Noszka assistant, is the Hurricane girls head coach.
Now deceased East Clinton girls coach Jeff Craycraft was formerly a Noszka assistant, and Tony Berlin, his long-time assistant head coach here, was formerly head coach of the East Clinton boys.
His freshman coach during his early years at Wilmington was Brian McMonigle, who has been very successful at New Richmond.
Let’s give credit where it is due. Noszka was hired here at Wilmington by former Hurricane athletic director Mike Wallace.
I have been in the Wilmington area covering sports since 1978. My first Wilmington coach was Jim Staley and I have been fortunate to work with, in some capacity, for every one since then.
Most of the time was as broadcaster for WSWO Radio through 2003, and until recently in this capacity for the News-Journal. I have been asked who I would choose as the best that I have worked with over the years.
For me, the choices are easy, Norm Persin, who coached Greg Nared back in the early 1980s. Norm is still coaching today and ranks third on the all-time state list in total victories, trailing Dick Kortokrax of Elida and the legendary Joe Petrocelli of Kettering Alter.
Norm won a state title at Oak Hill in 2009 and is coaching presently at Lucasville Valley.
Obviously, the other is Noszka who is on top of the list. Personally, I think he is No. 1 on many people’s list, and achieved a milestone, his 250th victory earlier this season.
Two coaches with ties to Wilmington High School are in the Ohio Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, Staley and Persin. By all accounts, Noszka is headed there, too.
But, this “young” head coach at just 51 years of age still has a long way to go and many goals to reach. A second trip to the Final Four, this time at the famed University of Dayton Arena is the target for this year’s Bombers squad. One game at a time.
In closing, I have quite a great ride in these sports pages. My sincere thanks to Mark Huber, and especially to the late Clarence Graham and current editor Tom Barr.
As the late Jack Buck used to say on St. Louis Cardinals baseball broadcasts, “Until next time, so long for just a while.”
Bill Liermann has covered college and high school sports for the News Journal and local radio for many years. He has announced this is his last season covering games for the News Journal.