MORRISTOWN — Union Local has found its next head girls basketball coach.
With official approval gained at Thursday’s regular board of education meeting, long-time and highly successful boys basketball coach Lou “Scooter” Tolzda will take over the Jets’ controls.
Tolzda was also hired as a physical education teacher at the high school, beginning in August.
“I am excited about a new opportunity,” Tolzda said. “It’s definitely been an emotional week (leading up to Thursday).”
The girls basketball position came open when Rob Barr informed Union Local officials that he would not be re-applying for the position after a three-year stint as head coach, which included the OVAC 4A title this season and two Buckeye 8 crowns as well as a trip to the district title game this season.
Tolzda, who has spent the last five seasons as the head boys coach at Meadowbrook, is embarking on his seventh head-coaching position of his career. While the majority of his career has been spent coaching boys, he did cut his teeth — fresh out of West Liberty — as the girls coach at Shadyside and guided the Tigers to the OVAC title that season.
“Coaching is coaching,” Tolzda said. “If things go right, and I am able to get the people I want on my staff, we will have good, quality ladies in the program.”
Similar to when he took over the reins of the Colts’ program prior to the 2016-17 season, Tolzda is inheriting a team that’s coming off an OVAC Championship and has a cupboard that’s well stocked with talent.
“I didn’t do any research (on the basketball portion) of this job prior to interviewing,” Tolzda said. “The only research I did was about the physical education position. The coaching is secondary to being a teacher first.”
Since receiving the call from Union Local Superintendent Ben Porter officially offering him the positions, Tolzda has done more investigation into a squad he’s inheriting that’s coming off a trip to the Division III Eastern District Championship Game and has won the last two Buckeye 8 crowns.
“I have watched a few of their games on YouTube and I’ve talked to a couple of people who are familiar with coaching girls about some things,” Tolzda admitted. “The summer will be really important, but it’s not make or break. We’ll be able to get a feel for who the girls are and what they can and can’t do and when we’ll go from there.”
Tolzda has accumulated a 468-284 record in his 30-year career as a head coach. At Meadowbrook, Tolzda rang up an impressive 114-22 record, which included a regional title in 2018, four district titles, two trips to the Elite 8, four OVAC titles and a Muskingum Valley League crown this past season.
“It was an amazing five years (at Meadowbrook),” Tolzda said. “I would say we were as successful as anyone in the Eastern District during that time. They have a good group coming back, too.”
Tolzda met with his Colts players earlier this week to inform them of his decision to resign and called the meeting “very hard.”
“The kids and I had a connection and I believe they’d run through a wall for me and that program,” Tolzda said. “They really took success to another level out there. We had a good thing going, there were no problems with anyone, but I am excited for this new chapter.”
Prior to accepting the Meadowbrook post, Tolzda spent two tours of duty as the head coach at Beallsville, a stint at his alma mater, River, and a tour of duty at Monroe Central. He was also an assistant coach at Tyler County after the aforementioned season at Shadyside.
“Neither winning nor losing or where I’ve coached has affected me in any way,” Tolzda said. “We could win the state championship, and I’d be the same person. My job is to coach these kids and get to them to the point where they can almost coach themselves.”
According to Tolzda, he and Porter will be planning a meeting with returning players and their families in the coming days.