Westland Roundup: Bob Ghiloni sharing pointers with Cougars boys basketball team

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Former Ready and Denison coach Bob Ghiloni instructs Westland freshman Gristian Perez during the boys basketball team's practice Jan. 30. Ghiloni is in his first season as a volunteer assistant coach with the Cougars.

Bob Ghiloni’s passion for basketball didn’t subside following coaching stints at Ready and Denison University.

Having stepped down in March after 18 years coaching the Denison men’s team, Ghiloni is back on the bench this winter as a volunteer assistant with the Westland boys program.

Ghiloni, 64, is still working at Denison, serving as an adviser and as a professor in the department of health, exercise and sport studies. He’s also thrilled to be sharing decades of basketball knowledge with Cougars players and coach Rob Hayes.

“I always thought I’d get back to coaching and I realized how much I missed it,” Ghiloni said. “Some people had talked to me about coming out and helping them. This (program) intrigued me. I was at Ready for 15 years as the head coach then Denison for 18. This is different than a lot of other places I’ve been. I thought I needed to do something different and it’s been good for me.” 

Ghiloni has been stressing more than the techniques of the game, putting an emphasis on the mental aspect and how that can help players improve.

“Coach Ghiloni focuses in practice on offensive fundamentals with a particular interest in drills that involve toughness, (such as) playing versus ball pressure (and) finishing against contact, but he contributes to every aspect of what we do,” Hayes said. “He’s more of an overall quality control coach than any type of coordinator.” 

Hayes, who is in his fourth season with the Cougars, said he first met Ghiloni when Hayes was a student assistant at Wittenberg and Ghiloni was the coach at Denison. Ghiloni grew up in Newark and lives in Grandview.

“It’s been a gift to have his experience and his level of expertise with people as much as basketball this season,” Hayes said. “He’s incredibly skilled at caring for people ... and he’s made our team better by being around. He just wants to help the team. He’s a team-first guy.” 

Hayes also didn’t have a tough time persuading Ghiloni to help out. 

“It was as simple as I asked him, and also he has a soft spot in his heart for the west side from his time at Ready,” Hayes said. “Being the person that he is, he just saw an area of need and he thought he could help the most here in terms of helping people understand basketball from a new perspective.”

Ghiloni left Denison as the third-winningest coach in school history with 190 victories, trailing Walter Livingston (226, 1911-36) and Dick Scott (199, 1958-79). He led the Big Red to the North Coast Athletic Conference tournament title in 2016, earning the program’s second NCAA tournament appearance, and guided the team to a program-record 22 wins the following season. 

He also earned conference Coach of the Year honors twice. 

Ghiloni coached Ready for 15 seasons before stepping down following the 2001-02 season to take over at Denison. 

He had a 164-168 record at Ready. That included a 94-28 mark from the 1997-98 season through his final season with the Silver Knights. 

Ghiloni’s teams at Ready played Westland several times. 

Michael Dingess led the Cougars with 16 points in a 68-58 loss to Pickerington North on Jan. 29.

Junior forward Drew Panning said Ghiloni has been a welcome addition to the program. 

“He’s helped me a lot,” Panning said. “He’s helped me get bigger in the post and finish bigger instead of shying away from contact. He’s helped the people who don’t have as much experience as me and Sohn (McGee) and Derrick (Bogay) get better and get more fundamentals.” 

Westland was 2-11 overall and 0-7 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing New Albany on Feb. 5. 

“These kids have been through a lot with the losing, but they keep coming back,” Ghiloni said. “This is not magic. Woody Hayes used to say football is just blocking and tackling. Urban Meyer has said that. Basketball is passing and catching, and guarding and rebounding. Be great at the things that happen all the time. There has to be more of a level of commitment.” 

The Cougars led Lancaster 53-39 early in the fourth quarter Feb. 2 before the visiting Golden Gales closed the game on a 21-6 run for a 60-59 win. Bogay and Panning each scored 17 points to lead Westland.

The Cougars lost to Pickerington North 68-58 on Jan. 29. Michael Dingess led a balanced effort with 16 points, followed by Bogay with 15 and McGee and Panning with 10 apiece. 

“(Ghiloni) is working with all of them, and that’s what’s wonderful,” Hayes said. “He could easily come in here and focus on McGee or Panning or Bogay. He will work with any kid that’s in here. He just wants to teach fundamentals and how to play the game the right way.” 

Always the teacher, Ghiloni said he has learned from his time with the Cougars.

“I've learned how to motivate in a little different way, how to approach things in a little different way,” he said. “It's been a really good experience.”

Girls basketball team 

earns first win

The girls basketball team is looking to close the season on a positive note. 

The Cougars were 1-10 overall and 0-7 in the OCC-Ohio before playing New Albany on Feb. 5. 

Westland defeated Horizon Science 61-10 on Jan. 27. Alexxus Phifer led the Cougars with 21 points, while Hannah Kershaw had 16 points and 16 rebounds and Dimaya Alderson had 11 points and 11 rebounds. 

“The win felt great for the girls,” coach Nina Napolitano said. “It was also our senior night. They came to the game focused and ready to work. It was our best overall team effort we’ve had all season.” 

The Cougars lost to Lancaster 59-17 on Feb. 2 and Pickerington North 69-13 on Jan. 29. 

Westland has opted not to compete in the Division I district tournament. The Cougars will play host to Columbus West in a regular-season game Feb. 15. 

Wrestlers prep 

for postseason 

The wrestling team is hoping to build momentum heading into the postseason. 

The Cougars, who are 0-3 in the OCC-Ohio, visit Grove City on Feb. 11 and close their league schedule Feb. 12 against visiting Gahanna. 

Jakob Hurley, who has been competing at 152 pounds, entered matches against Sparta Highland and Dresden Tri-Valley on Feb. 4 looking for his 100th career win. He was 99-15 for his career and 23-2 on the season. 

Tyler Jude also was closing in on 100 wins, as he had 94 and was 20-1 on the season at 106. 

Trent Jude (113) was 20-2, Bryson Palmer (126) was 18-1 and Jacob Mullens (195) was 17-8. 

Westland will compete in an 11-team Division I sectional Feb. 27 at Marysville. The Cougars are seeded 24th of 45 teams in the district.

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

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