Former Howland boys basketball coach Don Andres went from a retired coach to a hall of famer.
Andres, a former Niles McKinley High basketball standout who went on to become a college Little All-American, then a coach for more than three decades, was recently elected into the Trumbull County Sports Hall of Fame.
Andres was voted into the HOF in late May, just a few weeks after turning in his coaching resignation at Howland. He will be formally enshrined in November, when the TCSHOF introduces the Class of 2009 at a dinner and ceremony.
Along with Andres, the class of '09 includes; Barbara Barzak, John Caparanis, Sim Earich, Pat Guiliano, Bob Irwin, John Lawhorn, Dan Modak, Harry Pontius, Roger Rogos and Ted Wingert.
"This means a lot. This is a major league honor not just for me but for my entire family," Andres said. "To be put into the hall of fame so early after my retirement is a culmination for all of the years of passion and hard work I put into the game of basketball.
"I've had a passion for the game for more than 50 years, ever since I began playing basketball at the age of eight."
A 1963 Niles McKinley graduate, Andres earned numerous honors during his playing days with the Red Dragons. At Malone College, he was a four-year letterman, a three-year starter and a co-captain during his senior season. He scored 1,187 career points in college, and was Malone's leading scorer for two consecutive seasons. During his senior campaign when he averaged 18.1 points per game, Andres was named a Little All-American - the highest honor given to athletes who play at sub-Division I colleges.
Andres also was a standout baseball player on the Niles area sandlots. In fact, he played a year of baseball at Malone, where he batted .280, before he decided to concentrate on basketball.
"I held my own in baseball against some extremely talented Niles athletes," Andres said. "Back in the day, we used to have the Little League all-star games where the east side of Niles would play the west side. These was some outstanding all-around athletes on those fields."
When Andres graduated from college, he took a teaching job at John F. Kennedy High School. He was persuaded by JFK athletic director / basketball coach John Gillen to coach the Eagles' junior varsity and freshmen squads - a job that Andres believed would last a few years at the most.
"I never thought I'd be in teaching as a career, let alone coaching," Andres said. "But then I got married and had kids. More than three decades later, here I am."
Five years after arriving at JFK, Andres was elevated to the varsity coaching position. He was an immediate success, leading the Eagles to five consecutive winning seasons. Overall, Andres posted a 70-34 record at the school. He calls his stint at Kennedy his favorite era of his coaching career.
"In a perfect world, I would still be at JFK and I probably could have coached there for all of these years if I chose to do so," Andres said. "But I had a growing family and financially I just couldn't make it happen. It was tough being in the parochial system. The pay and the benefits - they just forced me to look elsewhere."
Looking elsewhere landed Andres at Howland, where in 1975 he began the first of his two stints at the school. After guiding the Tigers program for 10 years, Andres returned to his alma mater. He coached at Niles from 1989 to 1999, then spent three years at Reynolds (Pa.), where he helped the Raiders land their first playoff appearance in 18 years.
Andres returned to the Howland bench in May of 2005.
Overall, Andres compiled 341 career wins. His teams won five league and nine sectional titles, and he was named Trumbull County Coach of the Year on nine occasions. He was acknowledged as a four-time District Coach of the Year.
"Reynolds and JFK stand out because the people there, both the parents and the students, they respected what we were trying to do and were all about building a better program. It was all about what was best for the kids," Andres said.
When asked to pinpoint his most memorable coaching experiences, Andres spoke of specific unforgettable games involving each school.
"In my last game at JFK we were down by 10 points with two minutes left to a 23-1 Brookfield team in a tournament game," Andres said. "We came back to tie it up, then lost in overtime. I remember the unbelievable effort our kids gave, and I remember the game because it was my fault that we lost. I overworked the kids in practice, and as a young coach I learned a valuable lesson.
"At Howland, I most remember a 1981 win against Boardman. We had five junior starters, and they had Bernie Kosar. My first year at Niles, we upset top-seeded Fitch in the tournament after they drilled us in the regular season. At Reynolds, winning the game that put the team into the playoffs was a thrill, and it was also huge for that program."
Andres said that the game has changed very little since he first began playing on the sandlots of Russia Field in the 1950s. He noted that the biggest change to the game is the addition of the 3-point line, "which can keep you in a game or knock you out of a game in the blink of an eye." He also believes that parental and board of education involvement "has become more intense, and not always for the good."
Beyond all of the practices and the games, Andres said that his most cherished memories continue to take place, even now that he is retired from coaching. Quite often, he receives visits or letters from former players who go out of their way to stay in touch with their former mentor. After being hired for the Howland job in 2005, he learned that then-Howland athletic director Bruce Johnson had received numerous e-mails from former players who strongly supported Andres.
"My whole goal was always to have a positive impact and instill a strong worth ethic in each of my players," Andres said. "When they come back years later just to say hello, or to thank me ... well that makes it all worthwhile.
"I have no regrets. I gave the game everything I had, and I'm just grateful to be recognized for my efforts."