has been narrowed to three after the first round of interviews were
conducted Monday and Tuesday.
MANSFIELD – One mentored NBA mega-star LeBron James.
One coached Ohio's career scoring king Jon Diebler.
One boasts intimate knowledge of the city, the players and the inner workings of the tradition-rich boys basketball program.
The list of candidates for Mansfield Senior's coaching vacancy has been narrowed to three after the first round of interviews were conducted Monday and Tuesday.
Akron North coach Steve Culp, Upper Sandusky coach Keith Diebler and longtime Mansfield Senior assistant Effie James emerged as the finalists and will be brought back for a second round of interviews next Tuesday.
“All three have extensive basketball backgrounds,” athletic director and search committee member Dick Windbigler said. “They have great knowledge of the game and they have a great understanding of kids.
“Their passion was evident and their credentials are impeccable.”
Culp took over at Akron North in 2005, piloting the Vikings to a sectional title his first season. He was selected the Akron City Series Coach of the Year in 2008. From 2000 to 2004, he was an assistant coach at Akron St. Vincent St. Mary. He worked closely with LeBron James and helped guide the Irish to a national championship in 2003. He also was head coach at Akron Firestone from 1995 to 2000, leading the Falcons to three City Series championship games in five seasons. Before taking over at Firestone, Culp was an assistant at the University of Akron and a volunteer assistant at Cleveland State.
Diebler led the Rams to a Division II state championship in 2005 and a runner-up finish in 2007. His son, Jon, was Ohio's Mr. Basketball in 2007 and broke the state's career scoring record before heading off to Ohio State. Prior to his Upper Sandusky stint, Diebler was the head coach at Fostoria from 2000 to 2004. He also has been head coach at Gibsonburg, Bowling Green and Plymouth.
Effie James, a Mansfield Senior graduate and life skills counselor at Cornell Abraxas in Shelby, began coaching in the district in 1997. He joined former coach Gregg Collins' varsity staff in 2000, helping the Tygers reach the Final Four in 2005. James and junior varsity coach Marquis Sykes have been organizing offseason workouts since Collins' departure in late April.
“Of course I am biased, but I think continuity is important,” James said. “Knowing our kids and their individual goals and their challenges – on and off the court – would make the transition easier for coach and players.”
The eight-person search committee plans to recommend a coach by the end of next week. Windbigler said there will not be an open interview like the one conducted during the school's search for a head football coach in February.
“We all know the urgency of the situation,” he said. “We're a little bit behind the eight-ball because it is so late.
“I feel confident we will be prepared to introduce our new coach by the end of next week at the latest.”