River grad Bell reaches coaching with 500 victories

WHEELING – Forty-eight years is a long time. In prep coaching circles, it is an eternity.

But for Bob Bell a near half-century of coaching high school basketball as flown by with no end in sight. The former River High hoop great reached a major milestone recently.

Bell collected his 500th varsity coaching win via a 55-46 triumph over Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin. He began his coaching career as jayvee mentor for Kent State High School, shortly after finishing his collegiate playing career for the Golden Flashes. His first head coaching position was with Skyvue in 1975.

“Reaching 500 wins is a wonderful experience. That plateau places you with some of the coaching greats across the state, including my high school coach Dick Potts,” Bell noted. “I loved playing for him. I miss him to this day. He had a great sense of humor and was the best story-teller ever. Coach Potts was the Will Rogers of basketball coaches.

“I have loved my 18 years at Kirtland. It has been a great ride,” he continued. “Kirtland is a wonderful community. It reminds me of River High.”

Bell, 1967 River High grad, was an all-OVAC honoree as a senior and all-Eastern Ohio selection as a junior and senior. He also played football and baseball for the Pilots.

This marks the second straight season Bell has realized a tremendous achievement.

Last winter, Bell guided Kirtland to a perfect 22-0 regular season and a school-record 23 wins. It was the Hornets’ 10th Chagrin Valley Conference title in the last 14 years as they also collected a 14th sectional title in Bell’s 17 years at the school.

Such an impressive campaign landed Bell some half-dozen coach-of-the-year awards, topped by the AP Ohio Division III Coach-of-the-Year plaque.

“Last year was a very special season. We had a group of talented and committed players,” Bell said.

The Hornets are working on another successful campaign this winter. Kirtland, located some 20 miles east of Cleveland, is currently 16-5, earning the No. 3 seed in the district tournament.

Bell’s 500 wins are somewhat of a novelty. He amassed 212 while coaching boys.

His coaching resume is one of a Buckeye State roadmap.

After his maiden voyage in the coaching ranks at Kent State High School, Bell moved to Ravenna Southeast High, serving two years as frosh coach and a third as jayvee mentor. Bell then returned to his Monroe County roots, taking the head boys job at Skvvue High in 1975. He led the Golden Hawks to the PVC championship in 1978 and into the district tournament in 1977 at St. John Arena in Steubenville. The Hawks dropped a close encounter to the Terry Snively-coached Shadyside Tigers who featured the legendary Ed Andes.

Bell moved onto the head varsity boys job at Riverside High in 1979, taking his wife closer to her hometown of Willoughby South. Six years later, he accepted the head boys post at his wife’s alma mater, winning sectional crowns in 1989 and 1992.

In 1998, Bell found his way to his current home at Kirtland High. He guided the Hornets’ jayvee girls for three years before assuming the head post in 2001, and a successful and lengthy marriage was formed.

Bell, now age 69, has won nearly 300 games as Kirtland’s head man. In addition, his Hornets have pocketed 12 sectional crowns and a district title in 2005.

“Looking back, there are a lot of great memories. The district game with Shadyside is one. Andes shot the ball amazingly,” Bell noted. “Our 2005 Kirtland team also stands out. We went to the regionals and lost to Lowellville in double-overtime.

“It has been great times at Kirtland. This is a great place with an administration 100 percent behind us with super youth programs,” he added. “I also have really enjoyed coaching girls after coaching boys for 27 years. I find girls more eager to learn and more coachable with less attitude problems.”

Bell also played baseball at Kent State, in addition to hoops. One of his diamond teammates has turned into a legendary coaching figure.

“Nick Saban was our shortstop. He was a good defensive back on the football team,” Bell said. “But he was also a pretty good shortstop. Nick was a great competitor.”

Bell met his wife Cindy at Kent State. They have five daughters and 12 grandkids.

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