Marietta High is scheduled to play Massillon Perry in a Division I girls' basketball scrimmage today.
On the sideline will be Mark Hannuksela, a familiar face in the Lady Tigers cage program.
Hannuksela was recently hired as the MHS head coach after serving stints as a freshman and 7th- and 8th- grade basketball mentor. He is succeeding four-year boss Scott Cozzens, who stepped down from the varsity helm "because of family matters."
Times file photo
During his first tour of duty at the helm, Marietta High girls basketball coach Mark Hannuksela shouts instructions from the bench in a Division I sectional tournament game. Hannuksela was recently hired to guide the girls basketball team a second time.
"I was content being the freshman coach and a varsity assistant during the summer," Hannuksela said. "Then Scott decided to leave, and that caught everybody by surprise. He walked away on his terms, though."
Hannuksela will be in his second tour of duty as the Marietta High girls' varsity basketball coach. During his first tour from 1996 to 2007, he guided the Lady Tigers to nine winning seasons in 11 years, compiling a 140-98 overall record (.588 winning percentage). In his last campaign, 2006-07, he was named Coach of the Year in the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League (SEOAL) North Division after Marietta went 16-6 (.727 winning percentage).
Hannuksela's girls' basketball contract was not renewed by the board after some parents' complaints about his style of coaching, which is passionate - and not unlike most of his peers in the profession. He coached to win, and sometimes the players needed some constructive criticism.
At least Hannuksela didn't throw any chairs, or anything of that sort.
Many players and parents supported him at the board meetings.
In any event, Hannuksela ended up having to walk away from a position he loved...and not on his terms.
"That (nonrenewal) happened in the past, and that creek is dry," Hannuksela said. "But I would like to say, without getting mushy, that I really appreciate all the people who had faith in me and stood up on my behalf."
While Hannuksela was no longer the varsity boss, he didn't stop coaching basketball.
"I suppose I could've moped, but I wanted to make something good out of it," he said. "I stayed in the loop, and have been active in the profession. I'm very grateful to Scott (Cozzens) for letting me coach freshman ball."
The Marietta girls began practicing on Oct. 25, and Hannuksela is pleased with what he's seen so far.
"The girls are hard workers," the coach said. "They need to be well-rounded and understand their roles on the team.
"This is not my first rodeo, and I consider myself a demanding coach, who emphasizes discipline."
"When I first started coaching at Marietta in 1996, I didn't have a knowledge of the players, and where the pieces fit," he continued. "Now, this time around, I do, and the girls also know who I am."
Notes: Since 1972-73, when girls basketball tipped off at Marietta High, there have been 12 varsity head coaches. Hannuksela and Linda Eddy each has had two tours of duty at the helm...Of the dozen girls' basketball coaches, no one has been at the helm longer than Hannuksela...A native of Warren, Ohio, Hannuksela graduated from Notre Dame in South Bend, In. in 1982. This Saturday, he and his son Nick have tickets to attend the Notre Dame at Pitt football game, which is scheduled for an 8 p.m. kickoff...Hannuksela has both college and prep basketball coaching experience in the state of North Carolina...At MHS, Hannuksela is also an English teacher.