By ZACH BAKER
FOR THE COURIER
It’s about 3 p.m.
You’re on the phone trying to get a hold of Rick DeMoss, now an assistant coach for the boys basketball team at Carey.
DeMoss picks up. He’s polite, but also short.
“We’re about to start practice,” he says.
For 50 years, coaching has been a part of DeMoss’ life.
A big part.
DeMoss was a boys basketball coach at New Riegel from 1977-2003. In that time, he won eight league titles, seven sectional titles, a district championship and — in 1993 — the Blue Jackets finished as a state runner up.
DeMoss also coached softball for 10 years, making it to state in 1991, and baseball for three.
Later, DeMoss was an assistant boys basketball coach at Tiffin Columbian, a junior varsity coach at Old Fort — his alma mater — and then a varsity girls coach at New Riegel and a varsity boys coach at Hopewell-Loudon.
Since 2011, DeMoss has been an assistant for Carey’s head coach Jamie Young.
“He always gets the best out of us,” said Reece Billock, a senior guard for the Blue Devils. “He’s always making a joke out of something. It’s awesome playing for him. I just love it. It’s fun.”
The superintendent of the school Billock plays for has different memories from his athletic career.
Michael Wank played for DeMoss at New Riegel from 1979-82. A number of Wank’s brothers also played basketball for him, while his sister was on one of DeMoss’ softball teams.”
“Rick was fiery, he was in your face,” Wank said. “He’d insist if we’re gonna practice it, we do it well.”
Wank said that when he talks to players today, they’re surprised.
“They’ll look at me now and go, ‘Coach DeMoss?” he said. “He was able to change with the times.”
Maybe that’s the key to DeMoss’ success and longevity. No matter the sport, the players or the town, DeMoss, and his family, made it work.
It started in 1970, when, having just graduated from Bowling Green State University, DeMoss was interviewing for his first teaching job, at New Riegel.
It wasn’t in an office.
“It was funny. I had my interview with the superintendent, he was new,” DeMoss said. “We sat out in the car. He didn’t have a key to the building. And obviously, I did not. We kind of figured out there were probably other people who had the key, but I had my interview there.”
It was then, after DeMoss had essentially secured that job, that he asked about coaching. He said he was hoping a baseball job was open.
There was a coaching job available, though. But it came with a caveat.
“He said there was a freshman basketball job they thought would be open, if I would want it,” DeMoss said. “The catch was, I had to get a bus driver’s license to get the kids to the game.”
That’s how Rick DeMoss, new teacher and aspiring coach, became a substitute bus driver for the district.
“I would get a call at 5 o’clock in the morning,” DeMoss said. “‘Hey, we need a bus driver, and the person that was driving the bus has the bus at his house, which was in Adrian, and that’s halfway between New Riegel and Carey.'”
At the time, DeMoss was living in Fort Seneca. He wasn’t exactly familiar with some of the stops he had to make.
“It was like 20 degrees. So I’m going out there, and it’s cold, and I’m freezing, and they told me where the first stop is at, and they’ll be a little girl there that will tell you where all the stops are at,” DeMoss said. “She could have taken me to downtown Findlay, for all I was aware of.”
And so, DeMoss’ teaching — and coaching — career began. The next season, he was coaching junior varsity. Six years after that, he had his first varsity head coaching job.
And as the years passed, the wins started piling up.
Even if DeMoss wasn’t aware of the milestones as they arrived.
“We played Arcadia in 1986, and so I’m reading their program before the game, and I’m seeing in there that they’re ‘going to try and stop coach DeMoss from receiving his 100th victory,'” he said. “I had no idea. So I thought at that point, ‘Maybe I ought to start keeping track of these things.'”
DeMoss’ team got the victory that night in Arcadia. Seven years later, DeMoss was coaching in the regional finals in Canton.
DeMoss recorded his 200th career victory in ’93, his 300th in 2001, and his 350th in 2009, when he was coaching at Hopewell-Loudon.
His last year as a varsity head coach was that season.
DeMoss has been an assistant at schools since, and after a knee replacement, wasn’t sure if he’d be able to return this season for his 50th year. But when he realized the significance of the season, his wife, Melissa, told him he had to come back.
DeMoss was honored for his coaching career Jan. 30, when New Riegel’s boys played at Carey. Wank was on hand — along with a number of former players and coaches — and presented his former coach with a plaque.
When asked about his playing career, Wank said that DeMoss “kept a spot at the end of the bench for me.”
“It’s interesting how fast time goes,” Wank said. “(As a player, you think), ‘I don’t agree with you; I don’t like you, (but then) you realize you did deserve that spot at the end of the bench.”
DeMoss was given a number of things during the ceremony last month. He was presented a basketball, and OHSAA Commissioner Jerry Snodgrass sent scorebooks from New Riegel’s state tournament games, as well as DVDs of the contests.
Finally, those in attendance who played for DeMoss were asked to stand.
“What I would like to have had them do is ‘people from Carey or anywhere else that I’ve coached against, would you stand up,'” DeMoss said.
But in 50 years of coaching, DeMoss admitted he never had a moment quite like the one that night.
“A neat experience to have both sides of the gym being in your corner,” he said. “Normally, you’re gonna have one side “¦ it was a lot of fun.” Then, it was time for another game.