Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites and outdoor publications, and for the past ten years has served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press.  Widely knowledgeable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the Midwest. He and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.

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After three decades at Russia, Paul Bremigan is starting over in Troy, settled in, and re-energized by a different challenge.

Understand, these are not Paul Bremigan’s words.  They’re mine.

That time stands still for no one.  And the only constant in life is change, no matter how strange.

And how strange it is to see the new coach of the Troy Trojans dressed in something other than blue and gold.

How strange it is to see him as something other than a Russia Raider.

And how strange it feels to think of Shelby County League basketball, after three decades with him, to now not have Paul Bremigan as a resident cornerstone of its basketball legacy, along with John Willoughby (Houston), Scott Elchert (Jackson Center), and Brett Meyer (Botkins).

Don’t take it personally, anyone.  But certainly, Russia’s loss – the SCL’s loss –  has to be Troy’s gain!

He smiled at the notion when I sat down with him last week, in typical Bremigan process, flattered, but a bit embarrassed that someone, anyone, should express that kind of appreciation for the impact of his record and reputation.

And how now, in Troy, athletic director Dave Palmer, school administration, and the community are hoping that he can have the same impact on a once-relevant program that recently has performed like a ship without a rudder.

And please, no slight to former coach Tim Miller, who stepped down last spring after giving it his best shot for the better part of a decade…almost a quarter century, counting his years as an assistant.  But Troy had lost its identity, its culture, as a basketball town.

“I’m not used to people not coming to the basketball games,”  said Bremigan prior to his Friday challenge at the hands of GWOC North perennial power, Trotwood.  “I counted heads here the other night during the JV game and there were less than a hundred in the gym.”

A gym, by the way (the beautiful new Trojan Activity Center), that seats almost 3,000!

“I’m accustomed to the little gym at Russia and it being packed for a game with Loramie or Jackson Center.  They tell me it’s going to take a while, but I want to fill this gym.”

The circumstance of his leaving Russia is the present day business of public education.  Retiring as a teacher and guidance counselor after 36 years, he knew there was no longer a position for him.

“And I didn’t want to sit around and wait ’til 3 o’clock every day to go to the gym for practice,”  he says.  “I don’t have that kind of practice.   I still wanted to work, and I was ready to try something new.  I talked to my wife, my family, and when the Troy job opened I applied.”

After

After 31 seasons and 437 wins at Russia, Bremigan was ready for a new challenge.  “I told my wife I wanted to try this.  I wanted to do something different.”  (Press Pros File Photo)

After 31 seasons as head coach, 437 wins, 8 conference titles, 11 sectional titles, 5 district titles, one regional title and a state tournament appearance in 2002, nobody seemed to mind in Russia.  It was time for that community, like Troy, to turn a new page.

“I actually turned in my resignation at Russia before I was offered the Troy job,”  he laughs.  “For the first time in 30 years I was out of a job for about two days before they called from Troy to offer me the position.

“But I was ready for a new challenge.  I told my wife I wanted to try this.  I wanted to do something different.”

It couldn’t be more different than what he had built over 31 years at Russia.

It’s been years since Troy’s been an impact in area basketball, not since the days of Brooks Hall, Matt Terwilliger, Shane Carter, a Kris Dielman here, a Ryan Brewer there.  Outside of Hall and Terwilliger, the rest were not known for their basketball prowess, but they were nonetheless intimidating for their obsession with winning.

And Bremigan knows something about winning.  Prior to his taking the Russia job in 1984, the Raider program had toiled in relative anonymity for the previous half century, losing nearly half of its 850 games during that time…just barely better than a .500 percentage.  Bremigan, conversely, won 62% of his games (437 of 708) during his 31 years.

“We have to change some attitudes here,”  he stresses, talking about Troy.  “Kids are the same everywhere,”  he pauses, “…except there is a difference in a community like Russia, and Troy.  At Russia the kids were out and gone after practice because the makeup of the community was so much different.  They went home.  Here, they’re still hanging around the gym after practice because the family structure’s not the same for every kid.

“We’re building, taking some baby steps,”  he adds, gazing around the expansive space of what’s arguably the area’s best basketball facility.  “We have to make this program something that they want to be a part of.  We’re hurting right now because there’s some kids who didn’t want to come out and play.  That’s OK, but we have to change those attitudes.”

Unitedbuildingsupply_embed2-5, three weeks into the 2015-16 season, he won in his debut, an impressive 66-44 outcome over St. Marys, and followed that last week with an up-and-down win over Fairborn.  His losses have come to Fairmont, Greenville, Northmont, Trotwood, and Springfield Shawnee.

“We’re delighted to have him as the basketball coach at Troy,”  says athletic director Dave Palmer, who’s long respected the legacy of Bremigan’s reputation during his time at Russia.  “When you post a position like that you never know who’s going to apply.  And when he expressed interest in our position we really felt fortunate.  There has been some culture adjustment between him and our kids, but you can see that they’re buying into Coach Bremigan.”

The beauty of guys like Paul Bremigan is this.  He’s a builder, a realist…patient with the process.  While he claims he’s not the most patient, he understands that good things don’t happen overnight.  They didn’t when he came to Russia, 36 years ago.

And, he came to Troy without the comfort and security of his previous staff.  He’s metamorphosis is totally fresh.

“That was the toughest part of leaving,”  he admits.  “But I didn’t want to leave Russia in a bad situation.”  Long-time assistant Spencer Cordonnier took over the Raiders, and has them off to a predictable, successful start.

He’s starting over in Troy, without benefit of a Pleiman, York, or Francis, all familiar names from his Russia basketball legacy, replaced now with unfamiliar names, like Yaqub, Kinnel, Moody, Persinger, and Funderburg.  And more unfamiliarity awaits.  Eight of the thirteen on his roster are seniors, moving on after this season.

Which raises the question of how much patience does he have, and for how long is he willing to rebuild at Troy.

“The junior high kids are winning,”  he confirms.  “We’re willing to see how it goes.”

The beauty of Paul Bremigan?  After 31 years and 439 wins (at Russia and Troy) he stills wants to coach!  He wanted a new challenge, and he’s faced this challenge before.  Once upon a time they questioned if a young guy from Mt. Gilead, Ohio could make Russia a regional power.  Now, at Troy, they’ll tell you.  That’s exactly what they’re looking for.

And can’t think of anyone better?

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