VASJ coaches like new Penguins mentor

Babe Kwasniak couldn’t have a more glowing review about Jerrod Calhoun, comparing the soon-to-be Youngstown State men’s basketball coach to one of the rising stars in the profession.

That’s not because the Villa Angela-St. Joseph boys basketball coach is great friends with Calhoun. Not at all.

Kwasniak truly believes it as gospel. It has nothing to do with the euphoria he’s feeling after his team won a third state championship since 2013 on Saturday.

VASJ sent 6-foot-8 center Dererk Pardon to Northwestern and Kwasniak sees a lot of what Wildcats coach Chris Collins does in Calhoun.

“People might think I’m crazy, but a lot of the same attributes that Chris Collins had in turning that Northwestern program around, that’s Jerrod,” he said. “The kid. He made himself from absolutely nothing.

“Youngstown, I don’t know if it’s a done deal or yet, but they got themselves a superstar. This kid is going to be a star. All the attributes you’d look for in a Division I coach, or any coach, he has. He relates to people. Kids love him. I think he’s going to be a fireball recruiter. He’s got an affable, magnetic personality. He’s tireless.”

Tedd Kwasniak, a VASJ assistant and Babe’s father, was the Vikings’ coach when Calhoun played.

Tedd hasn’t let the soon-to-be YSU coach and former Fairmont State mentor out of his sight.

He’s seen the Falcons, which lost in Saturday’s NCAA Division II National Championship, many times through live streaming broadcasts — always keeping tabs on his former player. Tedd said the two still talk a couple of times per week.

Calhoun, an East Liverpool native, moved to North Royalton before high school, which makes him a perfect fit for YSU, Tedd said.

“I think he understands the culture of Youngstown. He’ll be successful,” he said.

Calhoun, who was an assistant coach at Walsh as well, was rumored to be the next Cleveland State University men’s basketball coach, but that went to Dennis Felton a couple of days ago.

Babe was confused why CSU, a place where Calhoun walked on in the early 2000s, wouldn’t take back their native son.

The VASJ coach went on a bit of rant. It didn’t make sense why a former player, who is a proven recruiter — twice under Bob Huggins at Cincinnati and West Virginia – wouldn’t be the coach of the Vikings.

“I’m appalled that Cleveland State didn’t get him,” Babe said. “Nothing against you guys at Youngstown. This seemed to me to be the biggest slam dunk ever. I would like to know what he doesn’t have that they were looking for.

“He knows the area like no other. He’s a young guy. He’s got a reputation for being a grinder. He knows Cleveland like no other young coach in America. For the life of me, I’m kind of scratching my head. I’m appalled, perplexed. I can’t use enough adjectives.”

Here’s a coach who won 124 games in five seasons at Fairmont State, while former coach Jerry Slocum won 142 in 12 seasons with the Penguins.

Recruiting has a lot to do with Calhoun’s success.

“It’s not what you know,” Babe said. “It’s not who you know. It’s who knows you. The fact that Jerrod is going to walk into a bunch of places where they know him. In my opinion with high school basketball coaches and AAU coaches in the Cleveland area, that’s like having a 100-yard sprint competition and starting at the 20-yard line.”

He’ll bring that same fervor to a YSU job desperately needing a makeover from numerous 20-loss seasons and draw excitement from the Youngstown area.

“He’s a people person,” Calhoun said. “He’ll be out in the community. He’ll be visible. He’s a tireless worker. He’ll be out everywhere. Guarantee it.”

Calhoun’s son, Jordan, is a sophomore on the VASJ team. Babe said Jerrod made at least 10 games this season — making the long drive from West Virginia.

Babe hugged Jordan after the Vikings won the Division III state title Saturday. The first question was, what happened in the NCAA Division II title game?

“I go, ‘What did we do?,'” Babe said. “I hear we lost by 10, coach. I was like, ‘Aww.'”

Calhoun’s wife, Sarah, who he married in May 2011, you could say was his biggest recruit.

“If you see the woman he’s married to, you’d say, ‘There’s no way he got that on just good looks,'” Babe said. “He must of done some kind of sales job on her.

“Jerrod, he’ll be a microcosm of Youngstown. He’s a blue-collar, lunch bucket, I’m going to outwork everybody. That’s pretty much what he’s done his entire life. He’s an overachiever.”

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