WHEELING - Transition has always been something of a skill for Wheeling native Ricky Yahn, and it's a good thing, too.
Yahn, an assistant coach at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., had been the man in charge of keeping the program afloat at the school recently, and was asked to remain on the new staff after his former boss moved on. Lancers players had just left campus two or three days before Yahn got the call he's been dreaming about since he was 16.
Today, Yahn, who graduated from Wheeling Central and Wheeling Jesuit, is the new head coach at Concordia College, an NAIA institution located in Ann Arbor, Mich.
"It's a really neat experience for me,'' Yahn, who also had stops at St. Vincent, Cornell and George Mason, said by telephone Friday. "It's a Lutheran College and there are about 10 Concordias in the United States, and we are all sister schools.
"It's neat to be back at a small, Christian, private school. I have different resources and connections available through similar institutions.''
Yahn becomes the latest to graduate from what has become somewhat a cradle of coaches from the Ohio Valley, joining the likes of Doug (head coach, College of Charleston) and Dave Wojcik (head coach, San Jose State), Dino Gaudio (former Wake Forest head coach) and the late Skip Prosser, who starred at every stop, including stints with the Demon Deacons and Xavier. In addition, Joe Wallace, a former Bishop Donahue standout, was recently named an assistant coach on Doug Wojcik's staff, and Mark Prosser, also a Wheeling Central product and the son of Skip, is an assistant at Winthrop.
"That was something I touched on and talked about in my interview, is the three things that are important to me: faith, family and where I come from,'' Yahn said. "You can't put a specific word on it or say how it's happened, but you look at the last 25 years or so and we've had four or five Division-I players come out of the valley.
"We don't have D-I players or great athletes, but it is a place where basketball is important and there is tradition. That translates into coaching.
"If you weren't someone who had to work, you won't be a successful coach. That's something that growing up in the Ohio Valley fosters."
Yahn, 28, recalled sitting at study break at Wheeling Central and using that time to write in a notebook that he still keeps with him.
The notebook is filled with diagrams of offensive and defensive sets, and ways to maximize a team's ability. For that he credits his former coaches.
"I've been unbelievably blessed to move up the coaching ladder and at every stop be surrounded by coaches who were better than the level they were coaching at,'' Yahn said. "I knew how lucky I was to have Coach (Dave) Wojcik, and really since 2001, I have been trying to train myself for this opportunity.
"Coach Wojcik took over at Wheeling Central when I was a 16-year-old junior and within a month I knew that (coaching) was I wanted to do. He made such an impact on my life.''
So did Jay DeFruscio at Wheeling Jesuit, Jim Larranaga, then at George Mason and currently the national coach of the year at the University of Miami. During his stop at George Mason where he was the team's video coordinator, Yahn had the chance to work with Luke Hancock, who eventually transferred to Louisville and became the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player.
"It's overwhelming and humbling,'' said Yahn, who noted if he ever needs an ear, just 10 minutes up the road at Michigan is John Beilein, a WJU grad. "I've been joking with my family and friends and it does feel like it happened quick.
"When I got to Cornell I was probably one of the youngest D-I assistants in the country. Now I will probably be one of the youngest head coaches anywhere.''
The news was music to the ears of Yahn's wife, Lindsey, who he married a year ago this August. A native of Buffalo, N.Y., Lindsey has spent the last couple of years 11-12 hours from her family. Now, if she cuts through Canada it will be roughly a four-hour trip home.
"She's really excited,'' Yahn said. "My Mom and Dad still live in Wheeling but my brothers moved away, so we have spent most of the holidays and things with her family, and it's been hard on them.
"She has lot of things going on this summer for her with weddings and family things, so we didn't know if she was going to be kind of staying in Buffalo and me in Virginia, or if we were going to go back and forth.
"We've been blessed."