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Marion welcomes Blackmon Sr. home

Former Giants star leaves Bishop Luers after 9 years

Blackmon Sr.

– New Marion boys basketball coach James Blackmon Sr. walked into the room for the Marion Community Schools board meeting Wednesday and received a rousing ovation, well-wishes and plenty of handshakes and hugs. It was the kind of reception he probably expected two years ago.

Blackmon, the Bishop Luers coach for the past nine years, was again approved as the leader of the basketball program that he starred for in the early 1980s. The school board approved Blackmon’s hiring as coach 7-0. He will also have administrative duties.

“It feels good to come back home,” Blackmon said after the meeting. “There is a lot of support in this room. There was a lot of support when I was coaching up in Fort Wayne, but just to come back home and see how much people are excited about Marion Giants basketball is a great opportunity.”

The 1983 Marion graduate was also hired two years ago to be the Giants’ coach but changed his mind three weeks later and returned to Luers. This time, though, appears to be different.

“Not only were there were some problems last time with the board, there wasn’t a whole lot of cooperation from some others in terms of making him feel welcome and helping him along the way,” said Marion athletic director Greg Peden, who wasn’t AD two years ago. “There have been some personnel changes and a change of mind. They hired him, and they thought he was the guy. Then he had some second thoughts about it. They are real happy that he is making that commitment again. Any time a community gets someone back like that, it is cause for celebration. Hopefully it will be the shot in the arm that we need.”

Peden, who was the Northrop boys basketball coach from 1993 to 2007, said the Marion administration was “satisfied” with Blackmon being the choice to replace Billy Shepherd, who resigned after two years.

Blackmon was 146-63 with the Knights, winning Class 2A state titles in 2008 and 2009, along with five sectional, three SAC tournament and two SAC regular-season titles.

“I appreciate everything Luers did for me,” Blackmon said. “Without Luers, I wouldn’t be in this position right now. The Marion Giants were tremendous when I was here as a player. The gym had a packed house. You just have to take the first step, and the first step is tonight and just being welcomed from the fans and welcomed from the community.”

Blackmon said his move will also include his two high-school sons, junior James Blackmon Jr. and freshman Vijay Blackmon. James Jr. is an Indiana recruit, while Vijay has received an offer from the Hoosiers. Blackmon’s wife, Dr. Sailaja Blackmon, has a successful medical practice in Fort Wayne.

“We are going to take it day by day,” Blackmon said of his family’s plans. “My wife’s situation is totally different than the one I am in right now. We are just excited about this opportunity.

“When you move, it is always a transition. Kids are always afraid of change. This is another challenge, and they are looking forward to it. I think they are pretty excited and eager to get started.”

As far as Blackmon’s replacement at Bishop Luers, the school’s athletic director, Jim Huth, said the process will start when he receives the coach’s official resignation letter.

“That would be the first step, you have to officially resign, and then put a game plan together from there,” Huth said by phone Wednesday. “I am not going to rush into anything. We already know there are a bunch of people interested. We will take our time and find a candidate who meets the needs of Bishop Luers High School.”

gjones@jg.net

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