Lynn Wess has retired – at least for the time being.
The longtime high school boys basketball coach, who guided the Coventry Comets to their first league titles since 1958 when they won the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division championships the last two seasons, quietly stepped away about a month ago.
Why no public announcement?
"It wasn’t needed," he said recently.
The move was hardly unexpected. Wess, 60, who resides in Manchester, retired at the end of the 2014-15 school year as a physical education instructor at Chippewa Middle School. It was always thought that he would step down as coach when this year’s talented group of senior players, which was led in part by his son, Conner, an all-district point guard who has signed to play at Walsh University, finished their careers. The group had been big winners since they started playing together in middle school, and, by the time they got to high school, it was thought that if Coventry were ever going to end its championship drought, these would be the players to do it.
"It’s been a great run," Wess said. "I’ve really enjoyed coaching them."
It’s a good stopping point for a new coach to come in and take over. Despite all the graduation losses, there will be some key returnees to the varsity, and the junior varsity program, which has lost six games in the last five seasons, will be sending a strong influx of players to the varsity. So for the next several years at least, the Comets should continue to be title contenders.
It is not known if the JV head coach, Steve Martin, would be interested in being a candidate for the job.
Along with that, the Comets will be boosted by playing in a new gym next season as the new Coventry High School opens in the fall.
Wess, a former standout at old Oakwood High School in Plain Township, has more than 350 wins in a coaching career that spans nearly 40 years. He started at Coventry in 1979 as an assistant to the recently deceased Craig Bailey. He held that role for four years. When Bailey left to go into administration, Wess took over and, in his four years as head coach, got the Comets to a district championship game.
He went on to become head coach at Jeromesville Hillsdale, a member of the Wayne County Athletic League, and then moved to league rival Chippewa, completely turning around both programs. He also served as an assistant at Wadsworth and at Mansfield Madison.
In addition, just before coming to Coventry the second time, in 2011, Wess spent a season as head coach of the Green girls.
When Wess returned to Coventry and saw this year’s group of seniors, who were then in middle school, he told officials in the district, "I will build you a program that will compete for a championship."
Recalling that pledge, coming at a time when the varsity was suffering through some lean times, he said with a laugh, "Competing for a championship hadn’t happened in such a long time that they probably thought I was crazy."
And when the Comets started 0-9 in his first year back, "They probably thought I was really crazy."
But the struggles were short-lived. In the last three seasons, the Comets have won nearly 50 games and the two long-sought-after league titles. Two years ago, they made it to the Canton Division II District semifinals, and this season, they got to the title game before losing to St. Vincent-St. Mary.
Wess and his wife, Eileen, a Coventry graduate, will spend a lot of time over the next four years watching Conner play college basketball (the couple also has an older son, Spencer, who played at Manchester). Still, he hints that he "would be open to coaching somewhere, either as a head coach or if not, as an assistant again. I enjoyed being an assistant.
"I don’t know what my next step will be, if there is one. We’ll just have to wait and see what opens up, and what I’m interested in doing.
"For right now, though, I guess I’m retired."
Here’s guessing that Wess won’t stay retired for very long
The rest of this column is about another winner, warriors and, to start, a wise and wonderful weatherman:
Dick Goddard announced nine days ago that he would be retiring this fall, ending a 55-year career as not just a Cleveland TV weatherman, but also a Cleveland icon. The forecast is that he will be sorely missed by Northeast Ohio viewers who have invited them into their living rooms every weekday evening since the beginning of the Kennedy administration.
Story after story recently listed him as an Akron native, but we all know he’s a proud native of Green – actually Green Township when he was growing up – and is a 1949 graduate of Greensburg High School. As such, he’s been a walking, talking infomercial for the area for as long as anyone can remember. He’s as nice of a man as you’re ever going to meet. He seems to know everybody, and has something kind to say about each and every one of them.
Goddard, who said he wanted to be the punter for the then brand-new Cleveland Browns when he was handling that same duty for the Greensburg Bulldogs, spent 44 years as the statistician in the Browns Radio Network booth during home games, working with the likes of Gib Shanley, Jim Graner, Nev Chandler, Jim Mueller, Casey Coleman, Jim Donovan and Doug Dieken. As such, I used to catch him every so often in the elevator heading up to the press box, and usually joked with him whether it was safe for a Green guy and a Manchester guy to be together in such tight quarters. No matter how many times I said that to him, he always had a hearty laugh.
Here’s wishing him good luck on his planned full-time endeavor of promoting the well-being of dogs and cats. Those animals are lucky to have someone as loving and caring as Dick Goddard in their corner.
Every time I look at outstanding head coach Dwane Casey, whose Toronto Raptors battled the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, I think of old friend Mike Phillips. The late, great former Manchester High School star, a 6-foot-10 center, and Casey, a 6-2 guard, were teammates on the 1977-78 University of Kentucky men’s basketball team that won the NCAA championship. Phillips died 13 months ago, in April 2015, at the way-too-young age of 59 after falling down a flight of stairs at his Madisonville, Ky. home. The people in the Manchester community still haven’t gotten over that one.
The actual Memorial Day and Memorial Day observed fall on the same day this year, Monday, for the first time since 2011. For a lot of years – sadly so – people thought only of parades, a three-day weekend and the unofficial start of summer when the subject of Memorial Day came up. Now, though, the holiday has fortunately changed back into what it used to be, and that is a day to honor those who made the supreme sacrifice in the defense of this country.
That transformation seemed to take place the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2011. It comes with the way people now react to servicemen and servicewomen when they meet them, thanking them for their service or giving up their seats to them on planes, buses, movie theatre lines and in restaurants.
In addition to being well-deserved, it is a heartwarming sight. That didn’t happen 20 years ago. The way the public viewed those in the service then was that they were just regular people, and that what they did wasn’t anything special. None of that is true in any way, shape or form. There are no people more important in this country than those who pledge to defend and protect it, for they put their lives on the line each and every day.
It indicates that at least in some ways, this country hasn’t lost its way on the important things.
And oh, one more thing: Thank you for your service. We tip our hats to you every day, but especially on Memorial Day.