National champion coach Jim Welling to be inducted

The winner of two NJCAA national championships while coaching men’s basketball at Owens Community College, 1977 Eastwood graduate Jim Welling is to be inducted into the Eastwood Alumni Association’s Eagle Way Hall of Fame.

Welling is the winningest men’s basketball coach in Owens history with a record of 550-127 (81.2 percent). As the head coach from 1986-2006, his teams won National Junior College Athletic Association Division II back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993. The team nearly three-peated in 1994, but lost in the final seconds of the championship game.

“Winning a national championship is hard to explain. You’re pretty much numb knowing you’re the best team in the country. It’s just something you can’t describe to anybody until you’ve done it,” Welling told The Press.

One of Welling’s motto’s summed it up best, “Winning isn’t everything. But making the effort to win is.”

Welling led the Express to a national second- or third place finish every year from 1993-2000.  His teams won 20 games in 19 of his 20 seasons, including winning 30 games during one nine season run. Welling was named OCCAC Coach of the Year eight times and Region XII Coach of the Year seven times.  Welling was honored by his peers as National Coach of the Year twice. 

Following his tenure at Owens, Welling was the head coach of the Central Catholic boys basketball team from 2008-14. He led the team to its first Toledo City League championship since 1968 (2010) and its first regional championship and state final four appearance since 1947 (2011). He also guided the team to a trio of Three Rivers Athletic Conference titles from 2012-14 and won five sectional championships before finishing with a career record of 111-30 (.787). He also coached at Lake for one season.

Despite the success, Welling told The Press that his greatest enjoyment was watching his players graduate with a degree and move on to four-year schools. Welling spent over 41 years in education at the high school and collegiate levels. At Owens 86 percent of his players graduated with 76 going to NCAA Division I colleges and nine played basketball professionally. 

“The big picture is education. Seeing them get a good job and support a family is important to me. Earning a degree is something that can never be taken away. It gives them a chance to have something forever,” Welling told The Press. 

Among those making it to the professional level are Jeff Massey in Poland, Martin Gottfried in England, Roy Coleman with the CBA in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Otis Smith in Turkey.

Welling coached six players who were named the OCCAC player of the year, including two-time winner Jeff Massey in 1991-92 and 1992-93. Others include Roy Coleman (1989-90), Otis “Chip” Smith (1990-91), Feisal Crumby Jr. (1993-94), Monty Latimer (1996-97) and Jon Powell (1998-99). Of those players, Coleman, Massey, Crumby and Powell were named NJCAA First Team All-Americans. Smith was an NJCAA Second Team All-American. Welling also coached Jerry Wells and Joe Sheperd, who were named NJCAA Third Team All-Americans in 1995-96 and 1999-2000, respectively.

Since being honored as National Coach of the Year twice, Welling was voted into the NJCAA Men’s Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.  Welling was inducted into Owens Community College Hall of Fame in 2019 and Central Catholic’s Hall of Fame in 2020. Overall, as a head basketball coach, Wellling’s teams won 78.2 percent of their games with a 708-196 win-loss record.


Dynamic backcourt duo

At Eastwood, Welling teamed up with classmate Randy Gardner, who became Eastwood’s all-time leading scorer at the time, in the Eagles’ backcourt. 

After graduating from Eastwood, Welling started his basketball coaching career at Eastwood Junior High for two years, including an undefeated seventh grade championship.

Welling played basketball at Owens under Dick Honner and at that time held the all-time assist record.  He became an assistant coach before taking charge of the program.  He earned a bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical Education at the University of Toledo.  While at UT he took advantage of learning the game from then UT coaches Bob Nichols and Jim McDonald.

When he got to Owens, Welling told The Press he recruited most of his players locally but had a 100-mile recruiting base and had plenty of players from Detroit, Fort Wayne, Monroe, and Sandusky on his team. 

“There’s great basketball in the Midwest. Most four-year college coaches would agree that this area is a hotbed for talent,” said Welling. “There aren’t too many players who play here who aren’t recruited by some four-year schools.  A lot of recruiting has to do with making sure you have the right pieces to fit what you’re looking for.”

Another key to his success was his team-oriented coaching style. 

“It’s not just a one-man show, everyone here was very supportive. Our tradition here is that our kids off the bench are as good as are starters. Our bench outscores our opponents bench. I play 11 to 12 kids every game, pressure full-court man-to-man. Some people think its run-and-gun because of the box score but it isn’t,” Welling said. 

Welling will be inducted into the Eagle Way HOF as a noteworthy alumni and coach. He will join the Frobose family (community contributors), Dr. Michelle Kahlenberg (noteworthy alumni) and James Opelt (community contributor and noteworthy alumni) in the hall’s  Class of 2021.

The Eagle Way Hall of Fame induction banquet is set for September 25 at the Pemberville American Legion. Tickets for the banquet, which are $25 for the chicken or steak dinner and festivities, are on sale at the Pemberville Library, at the high school office, or from the officers and members listed at and click on Eastwood Alumni Association. (— from Press file stories by Press Sports Editor J. Patrick Eaken and A.J. Szozda).




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