LUCASVILLE — The legendary Norm Persin spent 21 years inside the Panthers’ purple den at Chesapeake High School, then the following 14 inside “The Nuthouse” in Oak Hill.
However, his tenure on “The Reservation” at Valley High School, apparently, only lasted one season.
That’s because the 70-year-old Persin, who was hired in May of last year to take over the young yet up-and-coming Indians boys basketball program, resigned his head coaching position in late May —citing “realistically, it was about health problems that I had last year.”
Persin, in a text message reply to The Portsmouth Daily Times, said simply: “I am totally comfortable with my decision.”
“I know that stress caused a lot of it (health concerns) because coaching is not easy, and getting to be 71 years old (in September) is not easy,” he said. “I talked to numerous people that I respect, and they said step away and enjoy your free time and your grandkids before it’s too late.”
Persin’s lone season at Valley saw the Indians amass a 12-10 record, as they advanced to the Division IV Southeast District championship game against New Boston — which the Tigers won en route to their Division IV regional championship.
Thus, for 44 seasons as a head coach, Persin has amounted a decorated 778 career victories — and only 224 career losses.
More on his lifetime accomplishments, momentarily.
While his health was one reason for his resignation, so was his daily commute from his home near Gallipolis —and the fact that some of his prospective players for next season have transferred from Valley to other area schools, for football being their primary sport.
“The one-hour drive was killing me. Kids transferring out for football helped seal the deal,” said Persin.
In an interview 15 years ago when he was hired at Oak Hill, he cited an hour-long commute to Chesapeake from Oak Hill along curvy, windy and cell phone-service deprived Ohio Route 93 in Lawrence County as a key reason for that change.
He was in his mid-50s at that time, and although the Oaks were a struggling program in the mid-2000s, he decided to return to Oak Hill —and did he ever turn the Oaks around.
Speaking of decisions, he initially made up his mind about retirement —or so it seemed.
Persin, following 46 years of coaching including 43 as a head coach and his final 14 in his second stint at Oak Hill, officially announced in January 2020 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 ranked third all-time on the state’s boys basketball coaching career wins list with 766, including 341 at Oak Hill.
Perhaps more amazingly, and you can do the math, but he only had 214 losses over those 43 years.
For those into counting, that’s an all-time winning percentage of 78-percent — which is also third in Ohio high school history.
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.
At the time, it appeared to be the end — as Persin re-stated in mid-March (2020)— of an illustrious and incredible Hall of Fame career, as he has already been inducted into two Ohio basketball Halls of Fame (Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association in 2016 and Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017) plus four others (Ohio Athletic Directors Hall of Fame, Warren Harding High School of Fame, Chesapeake High School Hall of Fame and Warren Ohio Distinguished Hall of Fame).
Only six high school coaches are members of the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame, as he also won the OHSBCA’s prestigious Paul Walker Award in 2002 — which is the highest award from the association for a current head coach.
Prior to his second stint at Oak Hill, he coached the Oaks for six years before leaving for Wilmington for two —then the next 21 at Chesapeake, as the court there was named “Norm Persin Court” one year before his return to the Oaks.
He was seven times selected state Coach of the Year, won two Associated Press Division III statewide poll championships at Chesapeake, and accumulated a 76-game home winning streak and 48-game regular-season winning streak with the Panthers — plus 16 Ohio Valley Conference championships in his 21 years there including an astounding 11 consecutive.
That ranks second all-time in consecutive league championships in state history, as Persin —combining his first stint at Oak Hill when the Oaks were members of the OVC —won 19 OVC titles.
He also guided the Oaks to four outright (Southern Ohio Conference) 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.
Persin was a Social Studies instructor in the Oak Hill Union Local School District, and was also the district’s athletic director for those 14 years.
When Persin was approached after the 2019-20 season about becoming Valley’s new coach, the young talent on the Indians’ roster was attractive towards his decision of acceptance.
He said, after all, it HAD to be — what he believed — was the right move.
“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 coronavirus thing,” said Persin, upon his hiring. “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.”
His decision now — he said — is “to relax, watch his grandkids play baseball and attempt to golf”.
He is also a huge University of Notre Dame athletics fan, so catching more Fighting Irish games is also on his new to-do list.
As for ever coaching again, he said he has no intention.
“I’ve had a long and successful career, and have no intention of coaching again,” texted Persin. “I wish the Valley kids much success and I will be rooting for them.”
With it being mid-June, the Indians’ next head coach will be the program’s third in as many seasons —as Persin replaced Eric Horton following the 2019-20 campaign.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved