September 17, 2014

Medina
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High school basketball: ‘Hass’ is right man for job (commentary)

The over-under on broken clipboards in the 2014-15 season has been set at 2.5.

This, of course, is subject to change.

Sometime during Chris Hassinger’s highly successful four-year run as Medina girls basketball coach, a clipboard shattered into what felt like a billion pieces. Hassinger’s staff knew Gatorade carry-alls or chairs were next, so they looked into buying a titanium (aka “Hass-proof”) clipboard.

The cost didn’t justify the use, but Hassinger smiled when informed of the inquiry. Funny’s funny, even when it is at your expense.

The quite original idea was a poke at Hassinger’s inability to treat those pieces of equipment with, ahem, respect. When his team isn’t playing well, all bets are off on whether those plastic whiteboards will make it through a timeout unscathed.

Dig a little deeper and it shows why Hassinger is the right man to lead the Bees boys basketball program. Not because breaking clipboards is considered sportsmanlike, sane or explainable, but because Hassinger knows he can laugh at himself and allow his players to laugh at him, too, when the time calls for it.

The drive and professionalism are unmistakable. Hassinger paid his dues at Medina under Ohio High Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Keith Sooy and 164-time winner Jody Peters — both calm, tactical geniuses — and is revered by almost all his former players, male and female, and (gasp!) their parents.

That magnetism is what makes Hassinger the perfect fit at Medina, which passionately supports coaches who can balance tough love while cultivating a family atmosphere. It was the main reason outgoing coach Anthony Stacey was successful and former football coach Larry Laird before him.

“‘Hass’ is special,” said Medina girls basketball coach Karen Kase, who was Hassinger’s junior varsity coach. “He’s got everything you need to be a coach. The kids and his coaching staff will go through a wall for him. You see that because he wants you to be better and he believes in you.”

Hassinger, the son of former Medina County Sheriff Neil Hassinger, readily admits he’s a little nuts. This is a bit of truth — in a good way — but a whole lot of self-depricating humor as well.

“Hass” won’t be afraid to rip his team, be it to its face or to the media. He won’t be afraid to bench a star, and he certainly won’t be afraid to respectfully tell a helicopter parent to bug off.

But he also won’t be afraid to coddle, he won’t be afraid to drive across the state to support his former players — see a visit to watch Ohio Northern’s Angela Tesny play against Heidelberg’s Erin Pacholski and another to catch up with Georgetown College’s Dev King — and he won’t be afraid to go the extra mile when there’s no legitimate reason why he should.

Has it been mentioned he can out-scheme many counterparts on a daily basis?

“Behind the scenes, he’s really caring and great at being in tune,” Kase said. “His motto is ‘Life’s about relationships’ and it’s definitely true with him.”

Sometimes athletic directors promote from the inside because it’s easy. The spin is simple: He or she knows the kids, bided his or her time in the program, the transition is easier, blah, blah, blah.

Medina AD Jeff Harrison barely blinked when it came to Hassinger because it’s not often a man who added to the one-of-a-kind honeycomb title wall in Rich E. Clevidence Gymnasium is sitting across the hall (seriously). The vacancy was filled two weeks to the day after Stacey resigned once Hassinger assured Harrison he’s in it for the long haul.

Not all coaching hires pan out for one reason or another. Such is the beast with high school sports, especially when Northeast Ohio stars aren’t knocking at the door like they are at many private schools.

Bet on Hassinger finding success because the Bees will buy into his other motto, “Better together.” Born here (Wadsworth), lived here (Wadsworth), coached here (Medina), he knows what Medina County is about.

Clipboard-slamming fun aside, that passion alone will be worth the price of admission.

Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.