New university basketball coach speaks to Rotarians

NEW FUS COACH — Joe Wallace, incoming men’s basketball coach at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, was guest speaker during Friday’s luncheon meeting of the Steubenville Rotary Club at the Steubenville YWCA. - Mark Miller

STEUBENVILLE — City Rotarians met the incoming men’s basketball coach at the Franciscan University of Steubenville during their Friday luncheon meeting at the YWCA.

Joe Wallace told Rotarians he was from Wheeling, and since being named coach of the Barons earlier this year he’s reliving his roots in the Ohio Valley.

“Growing up in the Ohio Valley means so much,” said Wallace, adding he graduated from West Liberty University. “My roots have always been in this place.”

Wallace said his family was like many who settled in the valley, seeing it as “a land of opportunity. That blue-collar mentality has always been with me.”

Wallace said he’d been coaching basketball at different places throughout the country, and his first position as a college coach was with the University of Tulsa. He said he did everything, from sweeping floors to helping tutor students to learning the finer aspects of what makes a quality basketball team.

“That foundation came from this valley,” he said.

It was while coaching in California, Wallace said, that he first began hearing about the reputation of academic excellence of the university.

“I found out the national profile that Franciscan University has,” said Wallace, adding he then learned a coaching position was open at the school. “The job opened up, and I was here in July.”

Wallace said the current basketball team at the university “has lots of work to do. It’s brick-by-brick right now. (Former Barons Coach) Hank Kuzma really set the bar high.”

Wallace said he was going to aggressively recruit local athletes for the team. Wallace said he believed combining more local student-athletes with the international pool could help rebuild the team and give it a solid foundation. He added he wants to bring back the golden era when the former College of Steubenville was a basketball powerhouse.

“I want to bring back that sense of pride (in college basketball) to this community,” Wallace said, adding he would emulate Kuzma’s tactics for doing so. “I’m looking back to Kuzma when (Steubenville basketball) was a really big deal and push it toward what it used to be.”

Wallace said he wants players on the team who have academic standards and support the university’s philosophy of Catholic education.

“They will have to be great students,” Wallace said of those he’s looking to recruit.

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