One of the most successful high school boys basketball coaches in the area in recent years will not be on the sideline next season.
Jim Welling, who guided Central Catholic to a 110-31 overall record in his six seasons with the Irish, will not return for a seventh year in that position.
Thomas Maj, Central Catholic president since February, 2013, said the decision was made after he and Welling discussed the future of Welling’s full-time position as the school’s director of admissions.
“He thought he could make it work doing both [jobs] for a year, but probably not beyond that,” Maj said of Welling, who took the admissions post last summer. “Clearly, admissions drive everything that we do here, and he thought that serving in the full-time capacity as director of admissions would give us an opportunity to grow in that area. He’s not forced out [as coach] because he’s still an employee here.
“There’s a lot of interest from the international arena with the growing high school population of kids that are interested in attending school in the United States. We see that as a potential growth area for us. Jim has worked with several groups in that area. He and I talked and decided that his time and talents and expertise would better serve the institution in admissions. So, he stepped down from basketball.”
Welling’s comment on the change was stated in a press release from the school.
“I look forward to having time to develop a new program focused on international students,” Welling said. “This is a great stepping stone in my career.”
Prior to his time at Central, Welling was a highly successful men’s basketball coach at Owens Community College, posting a 550-127 record over 22 seasons (1985-2006) and winning National Junior College Athletic Association Division II national championships in 1992 and 1993 with The Express.
He got back into coaching at the high school level, spending one season (4-17 in 2007-08) at Lake before being hired at Central. Prior to the time he was hired as the school’s admissions director, Welling served in multiple nonbasketball capacities at Central, including teaching and development.
His stretch as basketball coach for the Irish included two league championships and a trip to the Division I state semifinals in 2011.
In his first season (2008-09), Welling led the Irish to their first appearance in a City League championship game in 14 years. The following season Central won its first City League title in 42 years. In 2010-11, the Irish reached the state final four for the first time since 1949. They were edged 48-46 in the semifinals by eventual state champ Cincinnati LaSalle.
Last season, Welling guided the team to a 20-4 record and a first-place finish (13-1) in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference.
Maj indicated that the increased focus on Central Catholic’s admissions is the result of a consistent, gradual decrease in school enrollment.
“We’re mirroring what’s happening around the country,” Maj said.
“Based on my records, it’s been about 20 kids [lost] per grade, so up to 80 kids a year, and for a variety of reasons. It probably goes back five or six years, back to the last recession where the economic downturn affected people’s ability to pay. Those who could afford to find a job and move, moved.
“It’s not particular to Central Catholic. It’s a national problem K through college. We’re bringing in smaller freshmen classes. The vast majority of our students come from Catholic feeder schools. As they lose enrollment it eventually finds it’s way to the high schools.”
According to Ohio High School Athletic Association records, Central Catholic had 375 boys and 388 girls enrolled in grades 10-12 for the 2008-2009 school year. Currently, OHSAA records have Central at 375 boys and 335 girls.
Maj acknowledged Welling’s successful record as a basketball coach and said the school has begun its task of filling that void.
“We’ll have a search for a new coach who we fully expect will build upon [Welling’s] successes,” Maj said.