STEUBENVILLE, Ohio – To everyone he is "Hank," the legendary basketball coach who led the College of Steubenville Barons to a national championship title. To Franciscan University of Steubenville, he is the coach who has walked with the University through it all. On Wednesday, Nov. 16, the new Kuzma Court will be dedicated to Henry J. Kuzma at the fourth annual Kuzma Community Night.
"Hank is a bridge between the old and the new," said Chris Ledyard, athletic director for Franciscan University of Steubenville. "He's been the guy who has been there through it all. During these first years of building our NCAA program, Hank is still the giant we hang our hats on. We couldn't have done any of this without him."
The Rev. Dominic Scotto T.O.R., the University Chaplain for Franciscan University, will bless and dedicate the floor between the men's 6 p.m. game and women's 8 p.m. game.
"It is so beautiful that they are dedicating the court to me," said Kuzma.
The Kuzma Court honors the legendary basketball coach who led his team to being named "Number One Small College Basketball Team in the US" by votes from the United Press Poll International during the 1957-58 season.
Before he became coach, the Barons had a 33-60 record. In his four years coaching at Franciscan (1954-1958), Kuzma never lost a game on his home court, totaling 56 home game wins. During those four years as coach, the Baron record became 95-19.
Kuzma recalled the 1957-1958 season as being very competitive. One of the top teams he faced was Tennessee State, a team that boasted 38 straight wins. To prepare, Kuzma said the team practiced Christmas day.
"We were too young of a school so some people objected to us being in the tournament that year," he said, but his team defeated Tennessee and proved the Barons deserved their place in the tournament.
Kuzma's excellence reaches beyond Franciscan. He is honored in 11 halls of fame throughout the area, recognition he never sought.
"I didn't promote myself for those halls of fame," he recalled. "They just came to me and my teams."
Kuzma not only affected Franciscan University athletics, but also the fundraising department. Through his fundraising work, Kuzma was influential in the building of Finnegan Fieldhouse, the J.C. Williams Center expansion, the acquisition of the Saint Joseph Center, and many other campus building improvements.
"Just like I put my best foot forward on the court, I worked hard to raise money for fundraising," he said.
Coach Kuzma said he is looking forward to watching the games on Wednesday, as the Barons take on Waynesburg University, one of Kuzma's top competitors when he was coach. "It's always nice to see the players play their hardest. Waynesburg is a good team that is very competitive."
Admission to the game is free and open to the public. Pizza and drinks will be available for purchase. A 50/50 raffle will take place during the games to benefit the Urban Mission, and old basketball uniforms will be raffled off to benefit the men's basketball team. The event is sponsored by Trinity Health Systems, DPS Penn, and EM-Media, Inc.