By Marc Weems
With the retirement of Jerry Slocum, former Youngstown State University head coach, YSU needed to find a new head coach. It didn’t take the program long to hire Jerrod Calhoun who was at Fairmont State University for the last five years.
“It is not every day that you get to make a decision like this,” YSU athletic director Ron Strollo said. “One of the most important things as an athletic director is to make a decision on a head coach.”
In Calhoun’s five seasons at FSU, he compiled a 124-38 record including a 15-win turnaround in his first season. He took FSU to the Division II national championship and had a 34-3 record in his last season there.
“I’d like to thank Ron Strollo, President [Jim] Tressel and Ron’s entire staff,” YSU head coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “It has been a very busy week for my family and I. We got back Sunday from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where we played in the national championship game. When I received the call and the offer, it was a dream come true.”
Calhoun said he has been waiting for this opportunity for a long time.
“The vision that Ron [Strollo] shared with me on the phone was remarkable,” Calhoun said. “It’s a great time to be a Penguin.”
Aside from his time at FSU, Calhoun was also an assistant under Bob Huggins at West Virginia University and when Huggins was at the University of Cincinnati. Strollo said that having that Division I experience was a big factor in hiring him.
“Coming into my last year, I’m really excited,” YSU guard Cameron Morse said. “He wants to play an up-tempo style. He sold me when he said that we were going to average 85 points a game. Scoring is what I do, so I’m feeling confident in him.”
For Calhoun, he gets many of the players back from last season including both Morse and Francisco Santiago.
“When I think of the city of Youngstown, the first thing that comes to mind is toughness,” Calhoun said. “I talked with YSU head coach Bo Pelini and he preached togetherness. What he has been able to do in a short time is unbelievable. Of all the words I thought of, one thing was missing — basketball. The Valley is dying to have a basketball team it can be proud of.”
Calhoun preached togetherness and accountability throughout much of his speech. He also said that he will approach this opportunity with a lot of excitement.
“This is exciting for sure,” YSU guard Francisco Santiago said. “As a guy from Cleveland, it is a blue-collar town just like Youngstown. We have to work for everything we get.”
Santiago also said that he is excited for the style that Calhoun wants to play and that he wants to get after it already.
“You just have to get these kids to believe in what you do,” Calhoun said. “We’ve got to give them some direction, but we also have to piggyback on the success of their last two games. They came together and played great basketball. You dream of this opportunity because there are only so many out there.”
Calhoun said that he wants his team to think bigger and better. He wants them to think of Horizon League championships and their first NCAA tournament bid.
“I looked at Youngstown State as a sleeping giant,” Calhoun said. “They have great facilities. We have a great recruiting base. Why can’t we win? Why can’t we build on what Coach Slocum did in the tournament? Those kids believed.”