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Basketball court in Canfield now named for former coach

February 26, 2020
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

Former Canfield boys head basketball coach John Cullen had no idea what was in store for him when he sauntered onto his old stomping grounds last Friday night.

The longtime boys boss popped into Canfield's gym prior to the Cardinals' clash with archrival Poland. What happened next was something that many in the Canfield community considered to be extremely overdue. The basketball court was dedicated in the ex-coach's honor and will now be named John Cullen Court. To say Coach Cullen was overwhelmed would be an understatement.

"I had no idea," Cullen exclaimed after the honor was bestowed upon him. "I didn't know what was happening. It's pretty amazing."

Making matters even more amazing was that many of Cullen's former players at Canfield were standing courtside to help him bask in his glory. One of his past colleagues was also there, but on the opposite side of the floor. Poland head coach Ken Grisdale was an assistant to Cullen in his early coaching days and was thrilled that he was there to be part of this celebration. In fact, Coach Grisdale insists he wouldn't have won over 400 games himself if he never met Coach Cullen.

"I found out Friday morning and I was very pumped," Grisdale said. "John is one of the best basketball coaches I've ever met. I became a basketball coach because of the year I spent as one of his assistants. He opened my eyes to the nuances of the game and filled my brain with so much basketball knowledge. He amazes me with his basketball IQ."

That intelligence allowed Cullen to collect over 500 victories. His record during his 28 year tenure at Canfield was 433-186. Included in that incredible mark was 15 sectional championships, a dozen league titles and five district crowns. It's been ten seasons since Cullen last coached at Canfield, but that gap didn't stop the current regime from remembering him as one of the best ever.

"(Friday night) was a special night to be a part of because of the work that (Cullen) put into this profession," said Canfield's present day boys head coach Todd Muckleroy. "It has been a privilege to work with and learn from his experiences. His presence can still be felt in Canfield basketball through the many players turned coaches who still volunteer to make Canfield basketball great."

Those sentiments also spilled over to the female side of Canfield basketball. Girls head coach Matt Reel had been invited by Cullen to join him at various coaching clinics, coaching roundtables and college practices in the past. He was eager to discuss how much the legendary leader meant to him.

"It's a well deserving honor," said Reel. "John has been a mentor to so many of his players and is very willing to share his knowledge with other coaches. He showed me how to become a student of the game."

Due to his spectacular coaching ledger it was natural that the basketball court will now hold Cullen's name. According to Canfield head football coach Mike Pavlansky, however, he didn't think it would have been strange if the hallways inside the school were named for Cullen too.

"(Cullen) impacted countless lives in the classroom as well as on the court," noted Pavlansky who spent many years side by side with Cullen as an instructor. "He is a special person. We are thankful to have known him and been positively influenced by him."

Canfield Mayor Richard Duffett put out a proclamation making this tribute official. As part of that declaration the Mayor read, "Do hereby dedicate Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, as John Cullen Day in the city of Canfield."

Judging by the tons of tributes that the longtime mentor received on that evening, it seems like every day can be considered John Cullen Day in Canfield.



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