BY YANEEK SMITH, BEACON CONTRIBUTOR
For the last five years, Von Graffin got to live out his dream of coaching basketball at his alma mater, Port Clinton.
But after dedicating himself to the sport for so long, Graffin has decided to step away and enjoy his upcoming retirement. Known to many for his time coaching at Bowling Green High School, Graffin accumulated a 195-185 record in 16 seasons as a head coach. He went 167-98 coaching the Bobcats and 28-87 coaching the Redskins. Graffin also coached as an assistant at Bowling Green, Rossford and Macomber in Toledo, which is no longer open.
“It was a little overwhelming, it was nice to hear from so many people. The relationships you build with the players, guys in your league, guys in your district (are meaningful). I’ve been doing this for 35 years,” he said. “I’ve been coaching kids, and then we’ve remained friends. The relationships built have been a lot of fun. It’s been exciting.
“I coached a lot of kids, (and) I know entire families. When you celebrate someone else’s success, that means a lot to them. What I love is going to a former player’s wedding, (hearing from) inner-city guys who called me when they bought a house or had a child or got married. I’ve had a lot of success. When you cherish not just team success but individual success, that’s special.”
The highlight of Graffin’s career came during his time coaching at Macomber when the Macmen, led by future Ohio State great Jimmy Jackson, won the Division I state championship in 1989.
“They were a real special group. Jim Jackson was not just a great player but a tremendous leader. Myron Bell, who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was also on the team,” said Graffin. “Our daughter was born and my son was a youngster (back then). It was a fun run with some great kids. And the staff that was there was great. It’s hard to win in Columbus — it takes some luck and good players.”
When he finally got a chance to take over his own program in 2003 at BG, Graffin had tremendous success. In his first year coaching the Bobcats, BG won its first league championship in 35 years, a fact not lost on Urban Meyer and his wife, Shelley. (Graffin got to know the Meyers when Urban coached at Bowling Green State University.)
“It was a little postcard that they sent, it was special,” said Graffin. “That speaks about Urban and Shelly — it’s how they continue to build bridges.”
In his 11 seasons coaching at BG, Graffin oversaw tremendous success. He even got to coach his son, Michael, who went on to a collegiate baseball career at Capital University. (Michael currently works as an associate athletic director at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.)
“The entire community bought in. Things were good in Bowling Green for those couple of years,” said Graffin. “We finished first or second in nine of 11 years in the Northern Lakes League. We never finished lower than fourth.”
One of the great things about coaching at Port Clinton has been the fact that Graffin has done it with nearly an entire coaching staff of Redskins.
“It’s been enjoyable going home. I know a lot of the same people, it was nice going home to my old high school,” said Graffin. “Our staff included a teammate of mine, Tracy Colston and his son, Cory. Jared Rhode, Ryan Hicks and Don Drusbacky, we’re all Port Clinton guys. I really enjoy the fact that we had so many PC guys on the staff. That was the most enjoyable part, coaching with (the assistants) and for the kids. Tim Walsh was my freshman coach.”
Retirement will allow Graffin the opportunity to be more of a father, husband and son.
“I’ve done this for 35 years. I’ve missed an awful lot of family events because of basketball,” he said. “Now, I go to my mother’s house and stay for dinner. I can be a son. My dad has wanted to go hunting. It’s about spending time with your brothers and cousins, and now I’ll be able to deal with that.”