McConnaughy steps down as Central skipper
WHEELING — After three seasons in the dugout, Wheeling Central baseball coach Bo McConnaughy has resigned from his position. After talking with the school, both came to the conclusion that it was time for a change.
“I felt it was just time to go and it was a mutual agreement between Central and myself. But we thought it would be best for both of us if I stepped away. So I did,” McConnaughy said. “There was no hostility or anything of that nature. It was just a mutual agreement between the two of us and it’s time for me to move on.”
When McConnaughy took over the Wheeling Central baseball program in 2017, the Maroon Knights were coming off a state tournament run where they fell to Wahama, 5-4, in the championship contest.
They were also reeling from the death of former coach Jamey Conlin, who died months after that heartbreaking loss.
McConnaughy came in and was the right person at the right time, both to help the players move on in their personal lives and athletic careers.
“I think on top of obviously maintaining the level of success of Central baseball has, Coach McConnaughy came in at a very tough time for the program with the passing of Coach Jamey Conlin and he not only had to continue the the overall success, he had to help a community heal with the loss of a great coach, a great teacher and a great role model for the kids,” Wheeling Central athletics director Donnie Murray said.
Despite his first foray into coaching high school, the former longtime West Liberty baseball coach (1982-2012) returned to his alma mater and wasted little time getting the Maroon Knights back to the big dance. However, Wheeling Central’s journey to Charleston was short-lived as it fell to Charleston Catholic, 2-0, in a semifinal.
“I think it was outstanding. I was fortunate enough to have some great players who were there and great players the next two years,” McConnaughy said. “Coaches a lot of the times get credit for wins and losses, but it’s the players who actually play the game. I got to give them a lot of credit.
“When I first took the job, I was kind of hesitant of how they would accept my style of coaching. They bought into it and if they don’t buy into it, I don’t care how good you are. You’re not going to win.
“That first year, we only lost five games, I think. And if we could execute the bunt, we may have had a shot at winning (the state title). But that’s baseball.
Despite not winning a state title, McConnaughy and his squad put their names in the Wheeling Central record book, ending a lengthy OVAC title drought.
Securing the No. 2 seed in the Class 2A field, the Maroon Knights defeated top-seeded Toronto, 5-3, to secure the school’s first OVAC baseball title since 1991.
“I was unaware of that at the time,” McConnaughy said. “But my goal for that first year… We weren’t looking to win any titles locally. Our goal was to get ready for the end of the season because in West Virginia, that section and region, everybody is in it.
“My thought was to just prepare for that tournament and that was what we worked for. But as it worked out, we played ourselves into the OVAC championship game and it was a heckuva game for us and Toronto that year.”
The Maroon Knights continued their winning ways during the next two years, claiming two more sectional and regional titles, along with a trip to the state tournament.
In 2018, Wheeling Central punched its ticket to the state championship game and came up one run short. Moorefield edged the Maroon Knights in a 4-3 nailbiter.
This past season, Wheeling Central fell to Charleston Catholic, 10-4, in the state semifinals.
“Three years, state runnerups, three trips down to state and two final four appearances,” Murray said. “Coach McConnaughy is a Hall of Famer. His whole career can’t be defined at what he did at Central because he’s been a Hall of Famer both at Wheeling Central and at West Liberty. It’s one of those things where we were lucky enough to have him for a part of his Hall of Fame career.
“That’s what’s always tough. When you have a Hall of Fame coach step aside, what’s next for the program? We’ll find that out when we get a chance to get together and start interviewing candidates and finding the next person to take the program to new heights, even more than it’s already been. That’s what what we do at Central. We maintain the success that’s there, cultivate young Christian men and women and make them better men and women off the field.”
While there’s a winning tradition — and McConnaughy won a lot –at Wheeling Central, in the grand scheme of things, there’s more to a sport than just winning.
“You can never thank the players enough because they’re the ones that actually do it,” McConnaughy said. “All those guys I had, I’ve had great relationships with after they graduated. I have great relationships with most those guys that have been through the program with me.
“I just want to thank them for giving me every effort they possibly had and they can look back on it and say, ‘Hey, we had a great season.’ Even though we didn’t win it, it’s not always about winning. It’s about the relationships and how you go about doing what you do.”