OAK HILL — The Oak Hill Union Local School District expressed its thanks to Norm Persin, in part, with a banner of his coaching accomplishments at the school —to be hung in the Oak Hill High School gymnasium.
Now, once the roundball season rolls around again, and during the two Southern Ohio Conference Division II meetings between the Oaks and Valley Indians, eyes will be on how the Oaks’ faithful appreciates Persin — given he will now be coaching against them.
Persin, following 46 years of coaching including the last 43 as a head coach and his final 14 in his second stint at Oak Hill, officially announced in January that the 2019-20 season would be his last.
He will always be remembered for the Oaks capturing the 2009 Division IV state championship — and ranks third all-time on the state’s boys basketball coaching career wins list with 766, including 341 at Oak Hill.
He trails only Richard Kortokrax of Kalida, whom he defeated 48-43 in double overtime in that state championship bout, and Joe Petrocelli of Kettering Alter in all-time wins.
Kortokrax, who also coached at Fort Jennings and Ottoville, and Petrocelli won 890 and 831 games respectively.
However, on Thursday night, Persin’s retirement from coaching came to an end —after less than three months.
That’s because, after fielding phone calls from Valley’s administration and admitting the power of that district’s persuasion, the legendary Persin was hired by the Valley Local Schools Board of Education as its new boys basketball head coach.
Citing his personal boredom by way of the coronavirus threat, and with Valley’s persistence paying off, he accepted the Indians’ head coaching position —saying “the situation” had to be a good one in order for him to keep coaching.
He is 69 years of age, won the state championship when he was 58, and turns 70 in September.
And hence, he remains the all-time wins leader among active coaches in Ohio.
“A lot of things went into this. I was set on retirement. I really was. But Valley called me and approached me about the job. They were persistent and encouraging about it. The more I thought about it, it was a tremendous situation, and I’ve been bored just sitting here with this whole virus thing,” said Persin, on Friday. “This late in my life, I can’t make a bad decision. It needs to be a good decision. If I thought this was a bad decision, I wouldn’t be making it.”
Of course, Persin knows as well as anyone that any decision has its impacts —intended or not.
He hopes that the Oak Hill community continues what’s been its warm relationship with him —having completely turned around the once-struggling Oaks’ program.
Two years before Persin’s arrival, the Oaks only won one game and lost 20 — but incredibly amounted 14 triumphs in his first season back, and even more amazingly captured the school’s and Jackson County’s first-ever district championship in boys basketball.
Two years after that, Oak Hill was a state champion.
He also guided the Oaks to four outright SOC II championships (2009, 2010, 2017 and 2018), and had no fewer than 14 victories in any one season of his second 14 years at Oak Hill.
His Oaks advanced to the district championship bout six times (2007, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2018) and the regional tournament five times (all except 2017) —with two of those resulting in runner-up finishes in addition to the 2009 Division IV title.
“Coaching against Oak Hill is going to be a tough situation, but I have nothing but fond memories from there. It was a tremendous run,” he said. “I had tremendous backing by my administration. I loved our players and I loved the students. The students were so good to me, our student section was incredible each game, I had a lot of fun with them and they had a lot of fun with the players. We had good relationships there.”
As might be expected, when tweets and reports of Persin’s hiring made their way onto social media, there were a few isolated emotions of unhappiness.
However, Persin said he received several text messages from former Oak Hill players and current supporters that congratulated him and wished him well.
“A lot of people told me you have to do what is best for you, and if you want to keep coaching, then stay in it. When I came back to Oak Hill, it was the best situation for me then. I am excited about it because I believe it is a tremendous situation,” he said. “Valley was persistent about it, and hopefully for however long it lasts we will make it work.”
And, while Persin will now be coaching on “The Reservation”, he anticipates his good relationships remaining intact from his years at “The Nuthouse”.
The coach also announced that Kyle Copley, a former head coach at Minford, will be an assistant on his staff at Valley.
Heath McKinniss, an assistant to Persin for the past seven seasons and former boys and girls head coach at Jackson, will be the new Oak Hill head coach.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved