Call it a reunion, an old-fashioned get-together, or better yet, a somewhat organized bull session, when members of the 1970-71 Hickory High School freshman basketball team recently paid tribute to their former coach, Phil O'Mahen.
Through the efforts of Ken White and several of his teammates the party was held on May 4 at Billy's Black & amp; Gold in Sharon. About 12 players attended, including O'Mahen, his wife Peggy, and former Hickory head basketball coach Steve Garay.
White, news director at Fox 18, WCCB-TV in Charlotte, N.C., stated, "A great time was had by all."
O'Mahen is a household word in Hermitage. He began his coaching career at Kennedy Christian High where he served as a junior varsity coach in the late 1960s. He then moved to Hickory as freshman basketball coach in 1970. He became junior varsity coach in 1972 and took over the reins as the Hornets head coach in 1982. He compiled an attractive 96-57 record in six years. In the late 1980s he led a Hornet team to a 22-4 record and a berth in the western PIAA finals.
Other schools: Phil later took an assistant coaching position under Frank Sincek at Farrell High before taking the Sharpsville High girls team where he had a remarkable record. Two of his Blue Darlings' teams went to the western PIAA finals.
O'Mahen then returned to Hickory as girls coach where he put together a record of 47-22. He also served as track coach at Hickory, leading the Hornets' outstanding shot putter, Mike Lockovich.
O'Mahen was a former Hickory High basketball player, graduating one year before the Hornet team went to the state finals. His players claim that he never "threw his school-issued sweats away."
The O'Mahens are contemplating a move to Florida sometime in the near future, which made the gathering somewhat of a going away party.
Members of O'Mahen's 1970-71 freshman team went on to lead the Hornets to bigger and better things in the years ahead under varsity coach Steve Caray, and assistant O'Mahen.
In attendance at the O'Mahen get-together were numerous members of the 1970 team as well as others who played for Garay in the early 1970s including Mark Malcolmson, a Hickory High stalwart who had a tremendous career for the Hornets.
Some of the former players were unable to attend, some did. The names, however, are familiar in the Hickory athletic scheme: Mickey Janusko, Bill Lyden, Bill Bell, Malcolmson, Darryl Readshaw, White, Bob Yeatts, Art Bain, Mark Hoffman, Marty Palanti, Stan Racketa and Russ Conrad.
As an added note, I remember back in the good old days when Ken White used to visit his grandparents who lived next door on Morefield Road in Hermitage. I met him in later years when we played against each other in the Suburban Church Softball League. He says, "I still can't jump or shoot but I still enjoy basketball."
Broadcasting background: Kenny went into broadcasting after graduating from the University of South Florida. After sports anchoring in Selma-Montgomery (Ala.), he covered politics (also in Montgomery) then worked in Albany and Buffalo, N.Y., Pittsburgh, Winston-Salem and Shreveport, La., before ending up with his current position in Charlotte. He apparently is the only news director in the country with a sports anchoring background.
Yeatts, now a lawyer, said he had some interesting tidbits about O"Mahen. Said Yeatts, "During my freshman career at Hickory, my stats were unbelievable. I averaged 1 point-per-game, 0 rebounds-per-game and O assists-per-game. End of career. I also drafted Phil's [O'Mahen] will. He left his wardrobe to charity. The charity declined the offer."
And a good time was had by all.