J.R. Battista, Bellaire Boys
When long-time Bellaire boys' basketball coach Gene Ammirante decided to retire after three decades and more than 400 victories at the helm, the school didn't have to look very far to find his replacement.
Ammirante's nephew and assistant coach J.R. Battista received the nod, and is now in control of the team.
"It's been a pretty seamless transition so far," said Battista.
After graduating from Bellaire in 1992, Battista took his basketball skills to the next level and had a stellar four-year career at West Liberty.
When his college career was over, he returned to Bellaire were he has been teaching and assistant coaching for the past 15 years.
Battista said he was glad to be in a position where he is already familiar with his team.
"I know all the kids and they know me, so we're all pretty familiar with each other," Battista said.
Bellaire will be bolstered by a pair of returning senior starters in Derek Feller and Manny Ray.
"Last season we had our ups and downs and ended up losing in the first round of the tournament. Coming into this season, we've lost a couple starters due to graduation, but we're still working hard.
"The only way a coach can make a mark on a team is by effort and attitude. I can't control who makes the shots, I can't control smaller guys trying to get rebounds.
"This year our effort and attitude are very well. We've had a really smooth first three weeks of practice.
"If we continue to work hard, the wins will take care of themselves. Some years you'll know you'll be a good team but you never know what could happen. It's all about believing in your potential and I hope that this team can reach it's full potential."
Battista has chosen John Poliek has his chief varsity assistant. Bruce Young and Ben Doyle will be assisting at the junior high level.