TUSCARAWAS TWP. As expected, Lynn Wess didn’t stay retired for long.
About two months after stepping down as the head boys basketball coach at Coventry High School, he has been selected for the same position at Tuslaw High School of the Principals Athletic Conference. He was named to the job after a Friday morning meeting with Tuslaw Superintendent Al Osler and Tuslaw High School Principal Melissa Marconi.
The move is pending approval by the Tuslaw Board of Education.
Wess, a longtime Manchester resident, takes over for Kevin Lower, who resigned after putting the Tuslaw program on the map during his five years on the job. It culminated this past season, as the tall, senior-laden Mustangs won their first 25 games, including going 14-0 to sweep to a PAC championship, before finally losing to St. Thomas Aquinas in a Division III district final. They were the first Stark County team to finish the regular season undefeated in four years.
It was also five seasons ago that Wess came to Coventry – for the second time in his career – and ended the Comets’ 57-year league title drought by taking them to Portage Trail Conference Metro Division crowns the last two seasons. This past year’s team was led by a strong group of seniors, including his son, Conner, a guard who is headed to Walsh University.
Along with the loss of all those seniors, the Comets will be playing in a new gym next season as the new Coventry High School opens in the fall. So everything was changing.
As such, it was a good time for Wess to make a break and step down from the job. He had already retired a year ago as a physical education teacher at Chippewa Middle School.
Still, Wess was far from sure that he would stay retired from coaching. After all, it’s been in his blood since he began his nearly 40-year career in 1979 as an assistant at Coventry in his first stint at the school.
"I guess I’m retired," he told The Suburbanite at the time.
"You retire and then you begin to wonder if you did the right thing," Wess, who has more than 350 career victories as a head coach, said Friday. "For the first time in a long time, I didn’t have to do the spring practices, and that was nice. It gave me a break.
"But then I started to miss it. I got a little depressed. I realized I wanted to coach again, and getting this job has filled that void. It has absolutely rejuvenated me. It’s a great opportunity, and I’m thrilled to get it. It’s exciting for me to take on this new challenge."
But it is a different challenge from any he’s had in his boys coaching career (he was head coach of the Green girls team for one season before taking the Coventry job). In his two stops at Coventry, and also at Chippewa and Jeromesville Hillsdale, both members of the Wayne County Athletic League, he took over programs that were struggling and built them into winners.
As mentioned, that won’t be the case this time at Tuslaw. The Mustangs are already winners.
"Coach Lower did a great job," Wess said. "With all the seniors they had last year, there were high expectations and he delivered on them. They were 25-0 at one point. You can’t do any better than that unless you go on and win the whole thing."
The challenge for Wess will be to keep the program successful despite the loss of nine seniors.
"With the fact we won’t have any returning varsity experience, we’re not going to be picked to win the league title or anything like that next season," he said. "We don’t expect to win 15 to 18 games. That would be unrealistic. Our goal is simply to get to .500. We’ll take it one step at a time, which is what I’ve done everywhere I’ve been.
"The junior varsity team finished 19-3 last year, and Tuslaw won the PAC Freshmen Tournament title. So there is a lot of talent there to work with, but it is all young.
"And we won’t be very big, either. Our tallest player will be only about 6-4 or 6-5, and Tuslaw was huge last year. It will just take some time for the team to develop."
Wess, who is bringing his two assistant coaches from Coventry with him in Steve Martin, a longtime aide, and Brice Krajcik, plans to implement the same up-tempo, running, pressing, attacking style of play he had with the Comets.
"I’ve always liked to run," he said.
That, too, will be a work in progress.
"The last couple of years, they worked to get the ball inside to their big guys," Wess said. "That’s understandable, since that size was their strength. But we don’t have that size anymore, so it will be different."
From living in Manchester, and with the fact Conner’s older brother, Spencer, played for the Panthers, Wess knows all about the PAC.
"I’ve always liked coaching at the smaller schools, and the PAC is a great Division II-III league," he said. "And it will get even better over the next couple of years with Northwest and Orrville coming in. Those will be tremendous geographical rivalries for us. And of course, there was already an outstanding rivalry with Fairless."
He added, "With me not being with these guys in the spring, we have a lot of work to do. But I’m anxious to get started. I’m raring to go."
The process will start right away. Wess will meet the players Saturday morning before a shootout at nearby Norwayne High School. He will not coach in the event but will instead just watch and evaluate talent.
Wess will begin his hands-on work with the team on Monday.