THE TIES THAT BIND
Hoban state title run connects past and present
Last week, during Hoban’s annual 7th Grade Visitation Day, Hoban principal T.K. Griffith spoke to a gym full of future Knights.
Less than 36 hours after guiding the boys basketball team to its first Division I state championship, he was running on a mixture of adrenaline and coffee. His voice was softer than usual, the strain of a five-month basketball season having taken its toll.
His message was simple, one that he repeats often and believes to his core: “All roads lead to Hoban.”
A 1989 Hoban graduate who has served as its boys basketball coach for the past 30 seasons, Griffith’s family is the living embodiment of this message. He played on the 1989 Division III state championship basketball team. His wife, Amy, was his classmate at Hoban. T.K. and Amy’s fathers each went to Hoban, as have all four of their children. Their youngest, Andrew, is a senior forward who has now joined his father as a state champion in his graduating year.
The Griffith family connections are well-known within the Hoban community, but they are part of a larger theme underscored by this year’s boys basketball tournament run. All roads lead to Hoban.
Hoban finished 20-8 a year ago after a surprise run to the Elite Eight. They returned six of their top seven rotation players, and while expectations were high, a state tournament run was far from T.K. Griffith’s mind when this season began.
“Honestly, I never really thought we could replicate what we did last year,” he said. “I mean, I was hoping we could at least get to regionals again. That would be good.”
In March 2022, following Hoban’s regional final loss to St. Edward, Basketball Manager and then junior Dominic Henry tweeted this message from the Hoban boys basketball Twitter account:
There’s something special to be said about high school basketball. It’s not the recognition a team receives nor is it the medal bestowed upon a player. The special thing about high school basketball isn’t even the friendships made because the greatest team has no friendships at all. The greatest team creates itself a family that, regardless of the adversity, remains intact. While cliche, a great team is a family. Over the past months, I have sat and observed from the sidelines a group of 15 young men mesh into something out of a dream. I have seen people from many different backgrounds come together into something that no one ever expected. The thing about this team - the thing that REALLY makes high school basketball so special - is that it just happened. This family just happened. From the players to the coaches to the managers to the fans, this team has embodied the value of family and inclusiveness and exemplified the highest level of togetherness that anyone could ask for. This team, while not the most talented on paper, prioritized hard work above everything - the mark of a group that is entirely self-giving and deserving of the greatest accolades. These are not medals or trophies, but the honoring of their grit and determination. As for now, the 2021-2022 season has ended; yet this family will always remain. That’s what is special about high school basketball. Sadly, this truth is often misinterpreted or taken for granted. But, as for the Knights, we have found a roadmap to this truth. So, while we keep working on this family, we will always proudly say #GoKnights.”
These comments could easily have been applied to this year’s team. Reading them and realizing that they were made 12 months ago makes it clear that the seeds for a 2023 state championship were sown long before the Knights were “on the radar” statewide, to borrow a phrase T.K. Griffith used with his team throughout the season.
In fact, the family dynamic that made this experience so rewarding for players and coaches extends well beyond the locker room.
Tim Lucey ’97 played for T.K. Griffith and has been his assistant for over two decades. Two other alumni, Norm Jesser ’10 and Tony Threadgill ’20, are on the coaching staff. Another assistant, Stephen White, was the head boys basketball coach at Buchtel from 2003-2017, where he coached the fathers of senior Will Scott and junior Jonas Nichols.
The Griffith family is not the only father/son duo to experience a state title together. Senior Logan Vowles’ father, Matt, is an assistant coach for the Knights.
“It definitely means a lot to have him on the bench as someone I can go to really quick if I need to ask something,” Logan Vowles said of sharing the experience with his father.
Logan Vowles’ road to Hoban began in fourth grade. He is one of four senior players, along with Andrew Griffith, Lamar Sperling, and Colin Coyne, who played AAU basketball growing up for the “Gurus of Go,” coached by T.K. Griffith.
“I definitely knew back then,” Logan Vowles said of wanting to come to Hoban. “I started coming to some of the games here and experiencing the environment and became really good friends with Andrew. I really liked how T.K. coached me and that was a big factor in why I came here.”
Coyne’s mother, Theresa, is the student services registrar at Hoban. Her father (Tom Lammlein ’60) and uncle (Denny Lammlein ’64) were able to experience the madness of the Knights’ tournament run. Colin’s older brother (Matt Coyne ’19) is a student at the University of Dayton, which made the state tournament location extra special for the Coyne family.
“It’s been such a fun ride,” Theresa Coyne said. “Our family has been connecting throughout this whole run, either coming to the games or watching them on TV. It’s felt like Christmas for a month. Every day there has been something to look forward to.
“It’s been electric in the school. The excitement has been incredible. Seeing the Hoban community come together before, during and after the games in Dayton was so awesome.”
Senior Brody Franjesh’s first memory of meeting the Griffiths came in 6th grade when his St. Hilary CYO team played Andrew’s St. Francis de Sales squad, coached by T.K.
“We lost by 20,” Brody Franjesh recalled.
Tom Franjesh ’94, Brody’s father, was a senior on T.K. Griffith’s first Hoban team.
“It’s great being a part of something that my dad was a part of too,” Brody Franjesh said. “To know that my dad was on T.K.’s first team and now to be coached by him too has been really cool.”
The tournament’s breakout star was Sam Greer. The 6-8 freshman, who started the season on the JV team, averaged 11.7 points and 8 rebounds in Hoban’s final three games. He, too, has multiple family ties to Hoban, none bigger than his teammate and older brother, junior Josh Greer. The Greer brothers are the third generation in their family to attend Hoban. Their mother, Kelly (Ruip) Greer graduated in 1995 and their grandfather, Terry Ruip, graduated in 1967.
“My grandpa was here when it was an all-boys school,” Josh Greer said. “My mom played basketball at Hoban and she was good enough that she could have played in college. My grandpa always coached her growing up and basketball is his favorite sport. I play football and he enjoys watching it, but he has three daughters so he never had as much of a connection to football as he does basketball. So us winning state was a huge thing for him, and he’s been able to come to all our games.”
And then there is the Hardman family.
“I’m not sure anybody understands and cherishes the story of Hoban like the Hardman family,” T.K. Griffith said.
Dan and Patti (Godzinski) Hardman are 1992 Hoban graduates. Dan was a basketball teammate with Theresa Coyne’s brother, the late Tommy Lammlein ’92. Dan’s brother, Jerry Hardman ’90, was a state qualifier in wrestling.
The Godzinski family is arguably the most decorated in Hoban athletic history. Patti played on four state championship teams, two each in volleyball and softball. Her sisters, Tina ’87 and Karen ’89, combined for five state titles in softball. All three are in the Hoban Athletic Hall of Fame.
For Patti Hardman, these accomplishments are only part of the Hoban story.
“We’ve always stressed that it’s more about the journey than the destination,” she said. “The Hoban experience isn’t all about winning in sports, although that certainly is a perk of the institution. We want our kids to be challenged in all aspects of their lives and Hoban has provided that.
“We have a sense of community that sometimes gets lost in private schools because you have kids and families who live all over. That sense of community is hard won and it is something that has to be built over time.”
Dan and Patti Hardman are the parents of twin 2022 graduates, Andrew and Ellie Hardman. Andrew is a neuroscience and pre-med student at Ohio State University, while Ellie attends Youngstown State University and plays softball. Their third child, Joey, added another state title to the family in Dayton 10 days ago as the 6th man on the basketball team.
“It’s special because I’ve grown up going to all the games and rooting for Hoban,” Joey Hardman said. “I’ve always known I would go here. There was zero question about it.”
Joey was beaten to the state title punch by his older brother, who was part of Hoban’s only baseball state championship in 2021.
Andrew Hardman’s senior year in basketball ended with that loss to St. Edward a year ago. He missed a state basketball championship by one year, but his impact on this year’s team was clearly felt. Of the many seeds that produced this season’s flourish, his leadership was among the most important.
“Andrew was the ‘glue guy’ who always kept everyone together when things weren’t going well,” his brother said. “I think some of the seniors this year took stuff from him and applied it this year.”
“His biggest impact was probably his attention to detail and care for each of us individually,” Andrew Griffith added. “He made sure we knew he had confidence in all of us. He would text me individually before games just saying ‘let it fly’ and stuff like that to give me confidence. He still did that this year.”
Connected by all these threads, the 2023 Hoban boys basketball team authored a season for the history books. Their tournament run produced many records and firsts. The Knights won a boys basketball district championship in back-to-back years for the first time ever, and earned the program’s first regional championship since 1998. Hoban’s overall record of 26-3 set a school record for most wins in a season.
Several players shared a leading role throughout the season’s final month - from Nichols torching GlenOak in the district semifinals; to Andrew Griffith’s 15 points in the district final against Nordonia; to Scott’s incredible individual performance against St. Edward; to Sam Greer’s emergence in the regional final and state tournament; to Logan Vowles burying five threes in the state championship game.
“Every night it was somebody different hitting a big shot or having the hot hand,” said Patti Hardman.
Colin Coyne echoed the sentiments of many of the players: “It’s just hard to believe it’s over.”
T.K. Griffith is used to the rhythm of a basketball season.
It begins in earnest in late fall and travels a meandering road with peaks and valleys throughout the dead of winter. And then, just as spring is on the horizon, it ends abruptly. For all but those special few teams, the ending comes with some sense of sadness and disappointment.
This year, the Hoban Knights were one of those special few. T.K. Griffith still isn’t quite sure how he’s supposed to feel.
“I’m still trying to process whether this is real,” he said. “Andrew and I came home and watched the replay of the state championship game just to make sure this really happened.”
The hours of practice and preparation each day have been replaced by time spent trying to reply to the nearly 500 congratulatory messages he received.
“The number of texts that I’ve gotten from former players and people from the Hoban community is overwhelming,” T.K. Griffith said. “It’s so overwhelming that it might take me weeks to get back to them all. But so many different people from different eras just have so much appreciation for this because they know what our program has always represented. They know that we don’t necessarily coach for state championships, but you dream of them. And then to get one, I think everybody realizes how special this is, that this is different.”
A much-needed vacation is coming soon. Until then, T.K. Griffith will continue pouring himself into the place that has been foundational to him and so many others. Because all roads lead to Hoban.