The fifth winningest boys basketball program in Ohio has been entrusted to one of its own.
Effie James, a 1994 Mansfield Senior graduate and longtime
assistant coach, was introduced as the Tygers new head coach Friday
morning. The announcement followed an exhaustive two-month search that
began shortly after Gregg Collins resigned in late April.
MANSFIELD – The fifth winningest boys basketball program in Ohio has been entrusted to one of its own.
Effie James, a 1994 Mansfield Senior graduate and longtime assistant coach, was introduced as the Tygers new head coach Friday morning. The announcement followed an exhaustive two-month search that began shortly after Gregg Collins resigned in late April.
It concluded late Thursday night after the two finalists, James and Upper Sandusky coach Keith Diebler, presented their final arguments to the search committee during an open interview in the high school auditorium.
“I got the call from (athletic director) Dick Windbigler early (Friday) morning at work,” said James, a life skills counselor at Cornell Abraxas in Shelby. “Obviously, I was thrilled. This is a tremendous opportunity and I'm grateful for it.
“These last 24 hours weren't as bad as I thought they would be only because I was comfortable in the fact that I did the best I could and made the points I wanted to make during the interview process.”
While he has no head coaching experience and is not a teacher, James said Thursday during a 35-minute presentation he was uniquely qualified to lead the program because of his lifelong ties to the community. He drew applause several times from an audience of about 75 that included James' former coach, Joe Prats.
“I was very impressed with his presentation and very proud of him,” said Prats, who won 220 games in 14 seasons at Mansfield Senior from 1979 to 1993. “If you're going to give the job to someone with no head coaching experience, you couldn't find anyone better than Effie. He knows the community as well as anyone.”
James, who starred in football and basketball at Mansfield Senior and earned a football scholarship to Bowling Green, began his coaching career in 1997. He served as a seventh-grade and junior varsity coach before joining Collins' varsity staff in 2000.
“The 12 years he has been here, that sense of loyalty, was influential in our decision,” said Windbigler, a member of the search committee. “He has a working relationship with all these kids.
“I was very impressed with both of our finalists. Effie and Keith both showed a great deal of class during the entire process.”
Collins, who took the head coaching job at St. Peter's, said after his resignation James should be considered for the position.
“I think the world of Coach James and I'm excited for him. He was so loyal to me and to the program,” Collins said. “This past year, he took on a much bigger role. He was doing so many things for us. He is as well-prepared as anybody.
“As with any first-year coach, it's not always going to be easy for him. But Effie's whole life has been here in Mansfield. He understands the tradition and he has a lot of advantages other first-year coaches wouldn't have.”
James said learning at the heels of one of the state's most successful coaches will serve him well.
“As far as preparation and organization, I think I'm well equipped. When you work for Gregg, he demands that you be ready,” James said. “That's why a lot of his assistants have been successful head coaches. When you're an assistant for Gregg, you're like a back-up quarterback. You had better be prepared.
“I can't thank Gregg enough. He has done so much for me during this process and he didn't have to.”
James and junior varsity coach Marquis Sykes have been supervising offseason workouts since Collins stepped down.
“I told myself when Gregg resigned I was going to continue running the summer program no matter what happened with the head coaching position,” James said. “I didn't want our kids to be behind.
“I feel very good about where our kids are at right now.”
The Tygers were 17-5 last year and shared the Ohio Cardinal Conference championship with Lexington. Senior guards Jacob Owens and Tevon Harris are the lone holdovers from that sectional championship team.
“I think they made a good decision with Coach James,” Owens said. “He knows the kids and he knows the program.
“He might not have any head coaching experience, but he was with Coach Collins for a long time. I don't think he's going to change a lot of things around.”
Mansfield Senior is three years removed from its last appearance in the state tournament. James helped direct the Jonathon Avery-led Tygers to the Final Four in 2005.
“I think they made the best choice for the program,” Avery, a junior to be at IUPUI, said from Indianapolis. “He's a Mansfield guy and he has the respect of the kids.
“I don't think his lack of (head coaching) experience is that big of a deal. There are a lot of great assistant coaches, at all levels, who just haven't gotten their chance.
This is his chance and I think he'll make the most of it.”