Wadsworth’s Booth more than a coach
Wadsworth High girls’ basketball coach Andrew Booth and wife Rachel have two biological children, but their extended family runs into the hundreds.
Daughter Peyton, a standout player for her father at Wadsworth and 2014 Medina County Senior Female Athlete of the Year, is a sophomore playing basketball at the University of New Hampshire, and son Alec is a senior on the boys’ varsity high school team.
Then there are kids like 2015-16 team members Jodi Johnson, Sophia Fortner and Laurel Palitto, plus kids-turned-adults like Jen (Uhl) Martin, Lindsay Tenyak and Cassie Schrock, to name just a few. All came to view 49-year-old Andrew Booth as more than a basketball coach.
“He’s so passionate about the game,” says Jodi Johnson, Wadsworth’s most recent star and an Ashland University recruit. “He’s kind of like a dad to every single one of us. He’s willing to push us to do our best, but he knows how to have fun.”
Laid-back and humble but quietly confident and perfectly capable of getting his point across, Booth also knows how to win. Now in his 11th season at Wadsworth, he holds the Medina County career record with more than 225 girls’ basketball victories. Add his seven seasons at Mansfield Madison and Booth owns more than 330 wins.
But more impressive than six Suburban League titles in a row and six consecutive district championships has been the way Booth has connected with his players.
Martin, who played at Bowling Green State University after graduating from Wadsworth in 2007, has witnessed this from a unique perspective. She was entering her junior year at Wadsworth when Booth took over prior to the 2005-06 season and is in her fourth year as one of his assistants.
“He definitely changed the program, and he did it in a way no one expected,” she says. “He finds a way to reach and get on people, but in a calm, loving way. He can tell you your defense is not good and have you laughing. He makes you want to get better. He really finds a way to get the best out of the girls, and he does it in a way that they want to do it.”
Truth be told, Booth never set out to coach girls’ basketball. He just wanted to coach basketball, period.
A 6-foot-5 forward at tiny Lucas High — there were 47 students in his 1985 graduating class — Booth went on to score 1,000 points at Malone University. He then spent two seasons as an assistant at Malone and served as a boys’ varsity assistant at Mansfield St. Peter’s and Crestline high schools before landing the girls’ head coaching job at Madison, his wife’s alma mater, in 1998.
“I had no intention or thought of switching to the girls,” he says. “But at that point, I wanted to be a head coach.”
After seven successful seasons at Madison, Booth landed the Wadsworth job. His children — the biological ones — were beginning grade school and he didn’t want to disrupt their education later on, so it was the perfect time to make a leap of faith and become coach of the Grizzlies, who already had a storied past.
“I knew enough to know they had a very good program, a very good tradition,” Booth says. “I didn’t know a lot. I decided, ‘What the heck? What do I have to lose?'”
As it turned out, nothing. Booth has an .850 winning percentage with the Grizzlies, who were ranked No. 1 in Ohio for a chunk of this season and entered the postseason with a solid shot at reaching the D-I state tournament for the first time since 2005-06, Booth’s first season in charge.
“We took a chance on it,” Booth says of his family’s move to Wadsworth, “and it’s turned out to be pretty good.”
Booth, who remains as driven as ever, doesn’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.
“His drive is based on helping kids reach their full potential on a day-to-day basis,” says 25th-year Wadsworth assistant Mark Postak. “Would he like to win a state title? I think he’d like the kids to win a state title. Whatever he does, it’s all about the kids.”
Noland is the assistant sports editor at The (Medina County) Gazette.