Soos named boys hoop coach at Buckeye Local

CONNORVILLE — Joe Soos has worn many hats during his many years in the Buckeye Local School District. However, he has never donned one that read Head Boys Basketball Coach across the front.

The 65-year-old Soos was recently named to that position by the Buckeye Local Board of Education. He replaces Greg Haberfield who led the Panthers to a school-record wins last season and their first trip to the Division II District Tournament. Haberfield accepted a position at Philo High School over the summer.

“I’m excited and looking forward to getting started,” the 12-year assistant said. “Greg did a great job of bringing this program back to respectability and we hope to continue that. We’re going to stay where we’re at. we’ve got some good kids coming back, and I’m happy with that.

“We did, however, lose a bunch of kids from last year’s team, so we’ll have a different identity.”

Soos said being hired at a late date shouldn’t pose any problems.

“Yes, we lost some time. But that was one of those things that couldn’t be helped,” he added. “The school district hired a new superintendent and that delayed the process a little bit, but the kids did play a little bit of summer ball and we’ve had a couple of open gyms. We’ll pick up the pace a little since everything have been resolved.

“The kids are willing to work hard and we have a decent talent level coming back. That’s a pretty good formula.”

Soos noted that the transition should be smooth for everyone involved as both assistants — Chris Heaton and Neal McCormick — also return to the bench. Heaton has been on the staff for several years, while McCormick served as freshman coach last season.

The Warren Consolidated graduate started his coaching career in 1992 as boys freshman coach under the urging of OVAC Hall of Famer Henry “Hank” Lasasz.

“He’s the one that got me into this crazy stuff,” Soos said with a smile. “I’ve been involved in the Buckeye Local district since then, with the exception of five years when I went to St. Clairsville to help Mickey Blatnik.”

Soos returned to Connorville and spent a couple of years as a girls assistant under Kevin Barr before moving to the boys staff where he served under Gary Raber (twice), Jay Morris and Haberfield.

“Gary and Jay were great coaches,” Soos stressed. “Gary was more of a defensive coach while Jay liked his teams to get up and down the floor.”

In addition to basketball, Soos has also spent the last six years as head softball coach after serving as an assistant for several years prior. He coached JV baseball for a couple of seasons and was a volleyball assistant for one year.

Soos said he hopes to carryover some of the momentum and enthusiasm the team created during the postseason last winter.

“There was a lot of excitement at the end of last season,” he noted of upset wins over Carrollton and Steubenville in the sectional tournament. “The win over Steubenville was a signature win for the program. We had the best record in school history and that is something that we can build upon. The players got a taste of success and that should make them more hungry to come back and do it again.

“That was a pretty good week for us,” he added. “We were in the district game, but the ball didn’t bounce our way a couple of times.”