ST. CLAIRSVILLE - After 10 successful seasons as the women's basketball coach at Ohio University, E.J. Schodzinski is stepping aside.
The Weirton Madonna and Wheeling Jesuit University graduate is not leaving the St. Clairsville-based institution. He has been offered an opportunity to work on special projects involving the community and development at the school.
"E.J. has done a wonderful job coaching our student-athletes and promoting our women's basketball program over the last decade," said Ohio University Eastern Dean Paul Abraham. "His record of achievement on and off the court speaks for itself. I believe this opportunity will give him a chance to further promote the Ohio University Eastern Campus by strengthening our ties with the community and our alumni."
The Lady Panthers have compiled a fantastic 181-55 mark during Schodzinski's tenure. The Green-and-White are the reigning back-to-back Ohio Regional Campus Conference state champions. They were runnersup in 2010.
Last year was the only year in the last five that OUE did not win the regular-season conference championship, but the Lady Panthers bounced back to win the 2012 state championship at the end of the year, coming back from 15 down in the second half to defeat regular-season champion OU-Lancaster, 61-58, in the semifinals - a team that had beaten them twice in the regular season.
OUE then thumped Miami Middletown, 79-62, in the finals at Middletown, a team which had defeated it, 86-62, in the regular season.
"That second-half comeback against a very good and top seeded OU-Lancaster - a team that seemed to have our number and had already beaten us twice - was a remarkable accomplishment," recalled Schodzinski. "I vividly remember the determination and courage that our team displayed that day. That was special. I wish that every team and every coach could experience that.
"The state championship win against Middletown on their home floor was the icing on the cake," he continued. "Our team carried the Lancaster momentum into the game and we won going away."
To win the 2011 state championship, the Lady Panthers defeated OSU-Newark, 86-83, in a double-overtime thriller, and then came back from 10 down early in the second half to nip top-seeded OU-Lancaster, 81-80, a team that had defeated it twice in the regular season that year.
"The thing that I remember the most from that tournament was the high quality of play. We executed, we battled through adversity and fatigue, and in the end, we made the plays to win. It was especially exciting to win the state championship on our home floor, in front of our community," he said.
OUE was ORCC regular-season champions in 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2012-13 under Schodzinski's watch.
"I am most proud of the accomplishments of our former players. In a short amount of time, they have become teachers, coaches, social workers, physical therapists, business professionals and community leaders," he noted. "They continue to represent Ohio University well after graduation.
"Our basketball program is in a very good place. The community has come to realize that we offer an environment that allows students to reach their potential academically and athletically," he explained. "For example, this year's roster is comprised of 12 former OVAC cagers, many of whom had other options to go to school and play, but decided to bring their talents here.
"While the timing is not ideal, the process has taken about a month from start to finish, which has provided me with enough time to prepare our team for the start of the upcoming season."
"I met with all of the players and let them know about the opportunity that arose for me," he said. "While they were surprised that I would not be able to continue as their coach, they understood and are open-minded going forward. I assured them that everything was going to work out fine and that I fully expected them to have another successful season with another conference crown."
Schodzinski said the school hoped to have the new coach officially named in the next 24 hours. OUE opens Saturday at home versus OSU Mansfield.
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