By: Greg Gulas
If you were fortunate enough to see former Boardman and Columbiana high school girls’ basketball coach Ron Moschella in action, you saw a man without a filter, a coach who was passionate about the game and a person who cared to a fault about the players that he coached and students he taught in his classroom.
Moschella passed away Jan. 4 at the age of 72 and up until the time of his death was still coaching, serving as an assistant on current Boardman girl’s head coach Jeff Hammerton’s staff, happily imparting his knowledge of the game and the wisdom he accrued over the years to this new group of players, those selected to represent the maroon and white and the program that he put on the map beginning in 1980-81, his first season at the helm.
He was a coach and teacher who never compromised his principles and if there was ever anyone cutting edge, ‘Mosch’ was that person.
Hired in time for the 1980-81 season, he went 4-16 that first season and no one took a loss harder than the first-year coach. Thirty years later, his last at the BHS helm, he suffered through his second losing campaign, going 8-13.
In between, he guided his teams to 21 conference championships – he won 19 Steel Valley Conference titles and two Federal League crowns – 13 district championships, two regional crowns and two state Final Four appearances (2005 and 2008).
He demanded excellence from his players but no more so than the demand for excellence from him and his staff. During his tenure he authored 29 winning seasons, guiding his Spartan teams to a 569-155 (.786) overall mark.
Current Boardman girls’ basketball coach, Jeff Hammerton, called Moschella a mentor and friend. “I was so lucky to have had the opportunity to have Coach Moschella in my life for as long as I did,” Hammerton said. “He had such an impact on me from the time I was in high school and he was both a teacher and coach. When I chose Kent State University as my college, he was so happy and proud because that is where he went to school. While pursuing my degree in sports broadcasting, he would often check in because he wanted me to be on ESPN so bad.
“When I went back to school to become a teacher and coach, he was one of my mentors, both in education and coaching. He taught me so much about coaching and life that I could never repay him. As a coach, he was Boardman Spartans girls’ basketball. For over 30 years he poured his heart and soul into every girl who played for him and for all the successes on the court that his teams enjoyed, he was prouder of what each of his players later became in life.
“When I was hired back this year to coach the girl’s team, he was the first person I wanted on my staff because of what he means to the program. In the short amount of time that he worked with our team, he left a lasting impression on each of our girls. I could not have been luckier to coach, teach and be his friend and I am going to miss him so much.”
Former Boardman athletic director, Jim Fox, said the Ron Moschella you saw on the court was not the man others witnessed away from the gymnasium.
“Working with Mosch at Boardman was memorable, to say the least,” Fox added. “The image some may have after watching games in which he coached is not the same ‘24-7’ man that I worked with for over 20 years. He had a heart that cared immensely for the kids he coached. It is because he genuinely cared about his players that there is no doubt about the positive impact he had in the development and success of one of the truly great girls’ basketball programs in the state of Ohio.” Current Spartan athletic director, Marco Marinucci, said Moschella’s passing leaves a void that will be hard to fill.
“Coach Moschella holds a place in Boardman High School history that can never be filled,” Marinucci stated. “He has given his talents, skills, guidance, support and love to his players, students and colleagues throughout his whole tenure and he will truly be missed by our staff and students.”
Moschella took over the reins of the Spartans’ program from Denise Gorski, also a former athletic director and the longtime Boardman track and field coach while her husband, Dan, coached the Boardman boys’ hoopsters when Moschella coached the girls team.
“My association with Mosch goes back to my first and only year as head coach of the Spartans girls’ basketball team in 1980,” Denise noted. “Many people do not know that he was my assistant that year and I vividly remember having to pull him down on the bench at times by his suit jacket. We began a lifelong friendship and I knew that he had a tremendous desire to want to take the girls’ program to new heights, which he certainly did.
“I wanted to focus on coaching our indoor-outdoor track teams and we were both incredibly supportive of each other’s programs, always encouraging our girls to do both sports. We had many of the same athletes and I know many of them are just devastated right now. I also taught physical education with Mosch for many years and saw the interaction that he had with students as well, not just athletes. They loved him for his personality but also because he cared about what was going on in their lives.”
Dan Gorski said Moschella forged relationships with everyone with whom he came in contact.
“Mosch touched countless lives of the girls he coached,” he said. “He treated them like competitors on the floor and women off the floor. We can all appreciate his intensity at game time but it’s the relationships he forged with his athletes that was so impactful.”
Part 2 is coming next week.
This article has been republished with permission by the Boardman News.