Magistro to yield Westerville post at season’s end

COLUMBUS — There comes a time in all coach’s lives when they take stock of their future.

For John Magistro that day of reckoning has arrived. The prep football coaching icon has decided that this coming season will be his final one as head coach of Westerville Central, a program he resuscitated nine years ago.

Magistro has been coaching prep football for close to a half century. He, however, looks and acts decades younger.

Burnout is nowhere to be found in his decision. Rather, he is making sure one of his loyal assistants gets his just due.

“I’m not tired one bit,” Magistro said. “I just have a coach I think is ready to take over and I want him to have it – just doing the right thing for him.”

That is assistant is Brent Morrison. He has served as Magistro’s Warhawk aide from day one. In fact, he was on the Westerville Central staff prior to Magistro’s arrival.

“It was a very tough decision, especially when you still love it. Very tough,” Magistro said. “I started thinking about it two years ago. At that time I promised our school administration I will give them two more years if they would give Brent the job. So this is my second year.

“But I knew this day was coming. I am at the point that I don’t want to have to rebuild a staff,” the former St. John Central and West Liberty grid star noted. “I feel good about Westerville Central football. The program is where we want it to be. I never wanted to leave it in bad shape.”

Bad shape is exactly where the Westerville Central program was when Magistro came on board. The Warhawks went winless in the season prior to his arrival. They did a quick turnaround in his initial season, going 5-5.

That inaugural campaign proved a solid foundation for much Magistro-led Warhawk winning. His Central teams have secured four OHSAA playoff berths and posted a pair of 9-1 marks.

“We are going to be a good football team this year. Our kids have bought into our off-season work. They are totally committed. I am very proud that our Westerville kids have bought in. The tradition is beginning,” Magistro said. “Central Ohio football is the best in the state next to your big Catholic schools like Moeller and Ignatius. Some 40-50 guys go D-I out of our conference every year.”

While looking back at a career saturated with success, the affable grid mentor resonates more on people than records.

“I have made so many friends in the coaching profession. I remember when I coached at Ferry and we had one of the best staffs ever with Dave Bruney, Larry Duck, Rich Weiskircher and Vince Suriano for starters. It was a great experience. How do you beat that?,” Magistro said. “Then one of my best friends — Regis Woods – hired me at Bellaire.

“I don’t remember the wins and losses as much as my former players who still stay in touch with me or use me as reference,” he continued. “It means so much when the Joey Galloways and Ben Taylors remain close friends still today. It’s been a great ride.”

With another successful chapter of his coaching career coming to a close at season’s end, what does the future hold for Magistro?

“I am not sure what I want to do. I have no game plan in place,” Magistro offered. “I wasn’t looking for the Westerville Central job when it came my way. I have grandchildren in the Olentangy district that I will be able to spend more time with.

“I am not ruling out coaching. Private instruction is big up here. I love teaching kids to do things properly,” he stated. “Like Bellaire, I will sit back and see what is next.”

While Magistro has worked wonders at the suburban Columbus school, he is best remembered for his magical mentoring of the Bellaire Big Reds.

In 23 seasons as Bellaire’s head coach, his teams were a sparkling 181-76, with nine OVAC championships, six regional titles and two Division IV state runnerup trophies. He led the Reds to three successive unbeaten campaigns (1995-97).

He has already been inducted into the West Liberty and Ohio Football Coaches Association Halls of Fame. Once he hangs up his whistle, he is a lock as a first ballot selection for the OVAC Hall of Fame.

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