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Varsity coaches cherish first win

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Getting that first victory as a varsity basketball coach is something to celebrate. For some, it also can be a relief -- or even a surprise.

At least three area coaches earned their first victory their first time out this season, as Olentangy Orange boys coach Anthony Calo, Grandview girls coach Michelle Chavanne and Hilliard Darby boys coach Mark Hess won their debuts.

Calo picked up his first victory with a 65-39 win over Beechcroft on Dec. 1, and his father, longtime Westerville South coach Ed Calo, was there to watch his son carry on a family tradition.

"I got my first win against Beechcroft in 1987, but it was our third game and not the first," said Ed Calo, who has more than 300 career victories. "It really was a neat moment (when Orange won) and a lot of people get that experience all of the time, but it was special because it was the beginning of the next generation of coaches in our family.

"You see your son out there doing what he loves and carrying on what you have done all of your life. It makes you reflect, and you have a great sense of pride for Anthony's moment. And it was a great one."

While Anthony Calo enjoyed sharing the milestone with his father, he also was just happy his first game was over.

"It was certainly better than losing, and it was great to have dad there," he said. "Dad told me before I took the job that there were things as a head coach that you can never predict. You never know what's going to happen, so you have to handle it with grace and class.

"No one thinks about the budgets, the concessions, getting gear for the team, getting officials for scrimmages ... it goes on and on. It's more than just figuring out what offense or defense to run. The easy part is coaching the game. That's what made it great when things came together (against Beechcroft)."

A first-time varsity coach was guaranteed a win in the Orange-Beechcroft game. The Cougars also have a new coach in Humphrey Simmons, who picked up his first victory in his second game, a 72-67 win over Mifflin on Dec. 7.

Not all first victories come easily. Hess, a former Olentangy Liberty assistant, had to deal with illness leading up to the Panthers' 78-64 win over Marysville on Dec. 4.

"I had a sinus infection and woke up at about 3 (a.m.) then couldn't go back to sleep," Hess said. "My mind was racing and I kept thinking about the game, wondering if we had everything ready. I sent about three or four texts to my assistants at about 4 (a.m.) and they were all asking me what I was doing up at that time. I guess it all worked out."

His former boss, Liberty coach Greg Nossaman, brought his staff to the Darby-Marysville game to scout the Monarchs. That made Hess feel at home, even though his team was on the road.

"The guys on the coaching staff I was with for the last four years were there, which was great," Hess said. "(Coach Nossaman) gave me a head nod and a smile when he walked in. Also there was Kenny Chaffin, who used to coach basketball at Marysville and was my mentor when I played at Mount Vernon Nazarene. It meant a lot for me to have pretty much everyone who had helped me with my career there (at the game)."

Hess' first victory was a proud moment for Nossaman.

"Mark might be my fifth assistant who now is a head coach," Nossaman said. "When Mark graduated college, he came and taught math and coached with me at Willard for a year before coming down with me to Liberty. You want guys with passion who want to be head coaches on your staff. They will work hard to make your team better and they will grow as coaches.

"It was a good feeling to watch him coaching out there, running a lot of the same stuff we did at Liberty. I was very impressed with the job he did."

That first victory is memorable, most of the time. Chavanne wasn't impressed with Grandview's 42-25 victory over Columbus School for Girls on Nov. 27. She was happier after her team improved to 3-1 overall by defeating host Licking Heights 47-44 on Dec. 7. That was important after the Bobcats finished 2-19 last season.

"This may sound strange, but I like working with the girls in practice more than coaching in games," Chavanne said. "Someone told me it was my first win and I never really thought about it. I was just happy the girls won.

"The girls were pretty excited (about the first victory). They definitely noticed that we had almost as many points at halftime (22) as we had averaged for games last season (23.9). Even the game they lost (25-18 to Fisher Catholic on Dec. 1), they knew that they were in that game and if they had made a couple of more layups, things might have been different."

These three coaches had strong starts. The next -- and more difficult -- task is sustaining that early success.

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