It's not often the term legend can aptly be used to describe someone associated with high school athletics.
Yet when that person accumulates 546 wins as head coach at one high school over a 31 year period, legend is exactly the word that can be affixed to the name Ron Moschella. Win number 546 for the Boardman girls basketball head coach came in the team's first game this year on Nov. 29. Much to the surprise of many Boardman fans, that victory would be Moschella's last. On Dec. 20, Coach Moschella decided to step down as Boardman's bench boss, citing health concerns as the main reason.
Moschella was recently hospitalized and released due to an unspecific ailment, so the timing of his departure had more to do with that than the fact that his team is one of the youngest Spartan squads on record and is certainly in rebuilding mode. Boardman has lost six games in a row since that opening season win, including a 41-27 defeat at the hands of longtime rival Austintown Fitch on Dec. 19. Varsity assistant coach Jeff Hammerton was in charge of the Spartans in Moschella's absence that night and will assume the head coaching duties for the rest of this season on an interim basis. It is possible that Hammerton will be named head coach at the next school board meeting on Jan. 23.
Photo from Town Crier archives
If Hammerton remains as head coach heading into next season, the size of the shoes he will have to fill are Shaquille O'Neal-like. Moschella ranks as the ninth-winningest head coach for girls basketball in Ohio. Under Moschella's watch, the Lady Spartans advanced to the state Final Four both in 2005 and 2008. Although he never captured a state title, the veteran coach was still a winner because he always made sure his program was run the right way.
Boardman athletic director Dave Smercansky verified that Moschella was indeed relinquishing his coaching duties, but he has yet to officially submit his resignation in writing. Smercansky said he was shocked when he heard the news, but realized the timing was correct due to the above-mentioned health problems.
"Ron's resignation caught everyone by surprise," wrote Smercansky in an email. "He had to do what was best for himself, his family and the girls basketball program. Coach Moschella realized he could not give 100 percent to the program, and he was the type of coach that would only give 100 percent of his time and effort."
Despite being a fiery and highly exuberant figure on the bench, his girls always played cleanly and respected him dearly. One of the brightest moments for Moschella was when he got to coach his three daughters at Boardman, making the Lady Spartans a true family outfit.
"Coach Moschella was the most caring and loving person you would ever meet," Smercansky said. "His passion for his kids could not be measured. Despite his sideline mannerisms, which to the general public's eyes were unacceptable, the kids truly loved him."
That love did not stop on the bench at Lady Spartans' basketball games either. Odds were if you went to any Boardman athletic event over the past 30 years, you would find Moschella as animated as if he was in the middle of coaching his own team to a Final Four appearance.
"Ron had every student and athlete at heart," said Smercansky. "You would see him supporting all the kids. He would come to any of those kids' defense at any time."
Now all of those kids and the entire faculty at Boardman can throw their support towards Ron Moschella. While they're at it, they can wish him a restful and happy retirement too. After all, isn't that what legends deserve?