About two decades ago at the College of Wooster, coach Steve Moore helped a talented basketball player make the transition to the coaching world. In late August, that former player put the wheels in motion to repay his old coach.
When Ohio State assistant coach Ryan Pedon made a phone call to Moore about an open date on the team’s schedule, the second-winningest coach in NCAA Division II history was all too happy to accept.
“Well, Ryan called me in late August and asked if we were open on that particular day,” Moore told The Dispatch this week. “I said yes, we don’t have anything scheduled other than possibly practice, and he said, ‘Good, because coach (Chris) Holtmann has agreed to have you guys come down for an exhibition.’ ”
That particular day will be Sunday, when the Fighting Scots come to Value City Arena to face the Buckeyes. The game will be Ohio State’s lone preseason exhibition game, while Wooster will be playing its second in three days after taking part in a charity game Friday night at Kent State to raise money for hurricane relief.
Pedon, a 1996 graduate of Bexley High School who was a three-time letter-winner at Wooster before graduating in 2000, put the initial bug in Holtmann’s ear about playing Wooster.
“When we started talking about it we were throwing a couple other schools’ names around and I said, ‘Coach, I don’t do this very often, but I would beg you to play Wooster,’ ” Pedon said. “I told him about coach Moore and what it would mean to the school and to coach Holtmann’s credit, he said, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”
Moore said the chance to play at Value City Arena is appealing to his players, most of whom grew up as Buckeyes fans, and to Wooster fans who have already purchased a lot of presale tickets. It will be his first time meeting Holtmann, Ohio State’s first-year coach.
“I know that they’ll meet and I’ll tell (Holtmann) a lot about him because coach Moore’s very special to me,” Pedon said. “It’s a great opportunity for a small school.”
Pedon, on the other hand, is far from an unknown to the Scots.
In 2000, Pedon was the recipient of the “Bear Award,” a special honor within the program given to a player not only for being talented but for being a good teammate and carrying a positive attitude. Moore said that Pedon’s outgoing nature not only allowed him to immediately strike up relationships with seniors as a freshman, but meant Wooster would use him in recruiting as well.
“As a student and player he was a key guy in our recruiting,” Moore said. “He’s hosting families and recruits and showing them around, making a great impression. I knew once he went into coaching he would be outstanding in the recruiting area.”
In 36 years as a coach, Moore has amassed a career record of 800-232 including a streak of 30 consecutive winning seasons at Wooster. He has led the Scots to 25 NCAA Tournament appearances and a league-high 17 North Coast Athletic Conference championships. Along the way, Moore said he’s appreciated watching Pedon work his way up the coaching ladder to get to where he is today.
“We’re just thrilled and so very proud of Ryan,” Moore said. “It doesn’t surprise us at all (that he’s a coach) because as a player he was so positive and enthusiastic and knew the game very well. Besides his knowledge of the game and his ability to teach, I think the people who have met him down there know already what an outstanding personality he has. That was so important to the contributions he made to our program on and off the court.”
While Pedon said he’s looking forward to the reunion, he’s not pulling any punches.
“It’s special, it’s really special, but we’ll be out to kick his (butt) that night,” he said with a smile. Then, after pausing, he added, “Just kidding, coach.”
Moore said he’d expect nothing less from Pedon or the Buckeyes.
“They aren’t going to feel sorry for us,” he said. “We don’t want them to. That’s how we’ll get better, if they really play well against us, and we know they will. That sounds like Ryan for sure.”