JEROMESVILLE — Lessons learned throughout his professional career should serve Ben Ferguson well in his newest endeavor.
A 1995 Hillsdale graduate, Ferguson was approved as the boys basketball coach at his alma mater during Tuesday night’s school board meeting. He succeeds Ryan Moore, who stepped down in March after four seasons.
The 47-year-old Ferguson is the President and CEO of Bendon Publishing International, the Ashland-headquartered children’s activity book publisher. He has spent several years coaching in the Hillsdale youth basketball program and was the seventh-grade coach last winter.
“Although I haven’t had head coaching experience at the varsity level, what I have had is 28 years of management and leadership experience at the corporate and executive levels,” said Ferguson, who also owns Village Point Market and Home Turf Training Facility in Hayesville.
“Coaching is very much a derivative of leadership and I’ve learned a lot about leadership during my career.”
Ferguson was one of 11 applicants for the opening. Hillsdale’s four-person search committee narrowed the field to five candidates who were brought in for interviews.
“We were looking for someone with leadership and management experience and we are confident Ben’s professional experience will translate,” Hillsdale athletic director Jodi Long said. “Ben knocked it out of the park during his interview. He had an off-season calendar already worked out and a budget in place.
“His attention to detail will build on what Ryan was able to do and keep us moving in the right direction.”
Ferguson inherits a program that has struggled in the rugged Wayne County Athletic League. Hillsdale snapped a 59-game WCAL losing streak during the 2021-22 season.
The Falcons turned the corner last year, finishing with an 11-12 overall record — the program’s best mark since going 16-6 in 2015-16. Hillsdale tied for fifth in the WCAL at 5-9.
“I’m very familiar with the players and the talent Hillsdale has and I’m very familiar with the talent we’ll be competing against,” Ferguson said. “This isn’t a job I started wanting six weeks ago. This is a job that I’ve been interested in for a long time. It’s just that the timing hasn’t been right. When Ryan stepped down, the timing was perfect.”
Ferguson was a three-year starter at Hillsdale under former coach Lynn Wess.
“I know Ben is passionate about the game. He’ll put the time in,” said Wess, who won more than 300 games during a 33-year coaching career that included stops at Chippewa, Coventry and Tuslaw. “He was a fierce competitor. He lived and died basketball.”
Ferguson credited Wess with steering him in the right direction.
“He is one of the greatest mentors I’ve had, not just in basketball, but in life,” Ferguson said. “During my junior year, I was a little hard to handle. … He told me then that the only person who would stand in my way is me. I remember thinking he was somebody who cared about me as a person.
“For the last 15 years I’ve been heavily involved in mentoring young people. I’ve seen what a positive role model can mean to kids.”
Ferguson can’t wait to get started.
“I believe we can build a premier program. We have talent all the way down to the sixth grade,” Ferguson said. “I was a part of developing some of those kids in the youth program. The kids are familiar with me and I’m familiar with them.
“This is the job I wanted. I wasn’t shopping for coaching jobs at other places. I wanted the varsity coaching job at Hillsdale.”