The Black River boys basketball team’s 45-game losing streak has notched another record.
First-year coach Barry Balderson was forced to resign late Tuesday night following an 80-42 loss to Chippewa. He is the only boys basketball coach in Medina County history to be replaced midseason.
“It’s about parents and playing time,” Balderson said without naming names. “That’s what it’s all about. I’m not going to be told who can start and who can play.”
Athletic Director Josh Calame, who will coach the team the rest of the season, said he was not permitted by Superintendent Janice Wyckoff to go into specifics of why Balderson was ousted.
Wyckoff could not be reached by phone Wednesday.
In a statement, Wyckoff said: “(The) administration feels Mr. Calame is the best option given the unfortunate timing of Mr. Balderson’s resignation. The district wants to provide our student athletes with a smooth and consistent transition. … We are all looking forward to a positive and productive season.”
Balderson is a teacher at Lorain High School. Before coming to Black River, the 56-year-old compiled a 9-12 record at Wellington in 1989-90.
The 1975 Elyria Catholic graduate resigned from Wellington to pursue a full-time teaching position and moved on to be an assistant under Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Hall of Famer Rich Voiers at Bay High School and, most recently, Maple Heights’ Phil Schmook, who has more than 350 career victories.
Balderson took over this year from Cynthia Berry, the first female boys basketball coach in county history, who resigned for personal reasons following a 0-23 season.
Balderson’s tenure lasted two games.
“They want to go in a different direction. That’s fine,” said Balderson, adding he’s already been offered assistant positions at two other high schools. “That’s their prerogative. Until basketball becomes important at Black River, it will never be successful.”
Balderson’s words have merit: The Pirates have a 258-657 record (.282) since 1969. Their 38-point loss Tuesday to Chippewa is only the 13th-largest during the 45-game streak, which has other defeats of 63, 51, 48 and 47 points.
It’s now up to Calame to stop the bleeding, and the 25-year-old intends to keep assistants Ray Mariner, the former head girls coach at Brookside, and Kevin Huff. A search for a new head coach will take place following the season.
Calame is not without coaching experience. He spent two years at NCAA Division III power College of Wooster and one year at Defiance College as a student assistant. He spent the last three seasons at Northwestern High School as a varsity assistant under the respected Mark Alberts Jr. before replacing Bruce Lorincz as Black River athletic director Aug. 1.
Calame also doesn’t need to look far for advice. His father, Jeff, compiled a 35-92 record as Pirates coach from 1983-88 and 2004-05. The 1985-86 team finished 11-10, one of Black River’s three winning seasons since 1969.
“I feel terrible for (the players), and I stressed that (Wednesday) morning when I talked to them about this,” Josh Calame said. “I tried to stress that this is all about them. It’s not about me. It’s not about coach Mariner or coach Huff. It’s not even about coach Balderson.
“This is about them and moving forward, and we had to do what was in the best interest of these kids. All parties agreed that this was in the best interest of these kids, and it’s about them, where this program has been and where it needs to go.
“I’m very motivated. I’ve got basketball coaching experience. Being a head coach is something I’ve always wanted to be and strived to be. That being said, I never wanted it to be under these circumstances; but, like I said before, our decision was based on what was best for the kids.”
Black River travels to Oberlin for a Patriot Athletic Conference cross-division game on Friday. The Phoenix has been outscored 146-72 in two games, but is the defending Wooster D-III District champion.
Though he is no longer part of the program, Balderson said he will be rooting for the Pirates.
“I want those kids to win as many games as possible. I really do,” he said. “I have nothing against those kids whatsoever. They’re all great kids — every one of them.”
Contact reporter Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.