CANFIELD, Ohio (WYTV) – It’s been 10 years since John Cullen coached boys basketball in Canfield. Since then, he’s worked for the YSU women’s team and is now head coach of the South Range boys.
Friday night, Canfield honored him for the 28 years he spent there by renaming its basketball floor the John Cullen Court.
Cullen was not supposed to know what was happening, and as he walked across the basketball floor at Canfield High School, he seemed genuinely surprised.
“Well, I had no idea what this was. I just came here. I was on my way to Springfield and I said, ‘I’ll stop in real quick after the JV game.’ Pretty amazing,” Cullen said.
After figuring out what was happening, Cullen walked toward the home side to see the freshly painted court name, where many of his former players were waiting for him.
“We talk to him yearly. There’s a kid from California that flew in. So everybody’s excited about this moment. The big thing was keeping it a surprise,” said former player Ray McCune.
Canfield Mayor Richard Duffett read a proclamation:
“Do hereby declare Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, as John Cullen Day in the City of Canfield.”
In that proclamation were some of Cullen’s statistics — over 500 career wins including a 433 and 186 record during his 28 years at Canfield.
Another statistic shows how he instilled a love for the game.
“I have 55 players or coaches that are coaching for me now,” Cullen said.
One of whom is Todd Starkey, the women’s coach at Kent State University.
“He had a huge influence on me choosing basketball as a career path. He was like a second father to me,” Starkey said.
The ceremony took place before Canfield’s rivalry game with Poland.
Poland head coach Ken Grisdale was among those who congratulated Cullen for the honor. Grisdale’s first job was as an assistant under Cullen.
“He just fascinated me with basketball and the way he could relate to kids. I am what I am a lot because of the time that I had with him,” Grisdale said.
Cullen said he’ll retire when it’s no longer important to the kids or when he’s not healthy enough to do it. But, he doesn’t expect that to happen anytime soon.