Central Catholic boys basketball coach Jim Welling, a 1977 Eastwood graduate who now resides in Northwood, has been named Three Rivers Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.
Welling was rewarded for leading the Irish to a 20-4 season and TRAC championship with a 13-1 league record.
One of his former assistants, Clay girls coach Corey Slovak, was glad to see it. Slovak got the same award on the girls side of the ledger.
“I think it's great that Coach Welling and I earned Coach of the Year in the same year,” Slovak said. “He was and still is my mentor, and the four years I was on his staff (three at Central, one at Lake) gave me experiences I will never forget.
“Learning how to coach a team at a high level was only part of it, he showed me how to run a program, which is something I will always be thankful for.”
Welling’s Irish were bounced from the Division I district tournament by regional semifinalist and Toledo City League champion Bowsher, 63-60, at the University of Toledo’s Savage Arena.
This year’s Irish were led by TRAC Player of the Year DeShone Kizer, a senior heading to the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, Ind.) on a football scholarship, and his classmate, Marcus Winters, both first team All-TRAC picks. Central junior Jeremiah Braswell is second team and seniors Nate Harris and Tom Vetter are honorable mention.
After losing in overtime to league runner-up St. John’s Jesuit, 62-59, at the Sullivan Center, Welling’s Irish came back to rout the Irish on the road, 55-37, to lay the path for the league trophy. One of the highlights of the season was a 103-57 nonleague victory over Bowling Green.
Welling won two junior college national championships during a 20-year stint coaching at Owens Community College, compiling a 550-127 record. As a player, he once held the all-time assists record at Owens.
He is now in his sixth season at Central. In 2011, he took the Irish to the state final four for the first time since 1952. He once told The Press that his playing days and previous coaching background keeps him grounded.
“Here at Central, they get all giddy about the St. John’s and the St. Francis’ and the rivalries among the powers of the Catholic schools here in the city, but I didn’t come from that background,” Welling said.
“I came from a background where you strap it up and it doesn’t matter who you are playing. You want to give your best effort whether you are playing in front of 500 people or 3,000 people. You know, if you have passion for the game, it doesn’t matter who you play. You will do it with respect but you won’t do it in fear.”