Bias going out a winner

Hank Bias knew it was time, three years ago.

“If I had to do it all over again, that would be the time to step away,” said Bias, who resigned after 13 years as Fairmont High School’s boys varsity basketball coach last week. “We were at the top of our game.”

Soon after Bias resigned, Fairmont girls basketball coach Tim Cogan also resigned to take over the Carroll boys program. That made for a rare double-whammy in a high-profile sport at one of the biggest schools in the state.

Joe Petrocelli also has retired after 50 years of coaching Alter’s boys. That means of the four basketball head coaching positions at the two signature Kettering schools, only Alter girls coach Chris Hart will return next season.

Fairmont’s boys had two straight 15-win teams from 2008-10, both of which played for district titles. But a drop in talent wasn’t the only thing ailing Fairmont soon after.

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“If you don’t have at least one scholarship player on your team, you’re going to have trouble in our league,” said Bias.

Bias underwent hip surgery that offseason. Worse, he developed bilateral pulmonary embolism, big words for five blood clots that had settled in his lungs. It often is fatal.

“I probably should have taken a leave of absence,” he said.

Instead, Fairmont wobbled the next three seasons with six, seven and six wins. Loyal to the end, Bias sensed it was time for a coaching change.

“The Firebirds need new energy,” he said. “They need a new face. It’s time. I understand that. You gotta win some games. I want that for the boys. I’m their biggest fan.”

Bias said it was his call to resign; he wasn’t forced out. But it’s no secret that the boys recent lack of success was a growing concern.

Ironically, that coincided with the Fairmont girls program taking off, winning the Division I state title this past season and making the final four the last four years.

With state-of-the-art facilities and extra-large enrollment (881 boys; 877 girls), athletic director Chris Weaver said he expects all Fairmont teams to be factors at the conference, district and ideally regional levels.

“When those things don’t happen, that’s certainly a part of the evaluation process,” he said. “I know what the standard of expectations are that we have. Absolutely, it’s part of the puzzle.”

Bias, 55, is about 18 months away from retiring. He’s part of the Kettering Alternative School unit at the Barnes Continuing Education Center.

He’s been a coach at various levels for 40 years, including five as an assistant at Northern Kentucky University.

If he returns to coaching, it won’t be anytime soon. He plans to move his family to Arizona. He already is hooked up as a speaker, addressing team motivation.

He’s upbeat; he’s grateful. He’s going out with a winning attitude.

“It’s been an incredibly great ride,” he said. “I’m profoundly thankful to everyone at Fairmont, around the league and even those guys with stripped shirts on.”

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