By Brad Morris
It’s been nearly four decades since Larry Cook stood on the sidelines inside then Tiger Stadium, guiding the Circleville football team to one of its more successful eras in program history. While the championships the Tigers won under Cook have gradually faded into fond memories, the impact that Cook made on the students he coached has endured.
“Larry Cook was a good football coach, but he was an even better person who truly cared about kids and being a good role model for kids,” said Circleville softball coach Dave Truex, who played football for Cook as a senior and later served as an assistant coach on his staff. “Coach Cook would do anything for his players and coaches, because that was the type of person that he was. You don’t see a lot of people around these days like Coach Cook.”
Cook went to meet his maker on Tuesday, passing away at the age of 79, after a brief stay in the hospital.
A graduate of Libbey High School in Toledo and Bowling Green State University, where he played for legendary coach Doyt Perry, Cook arrived in Circleville for the 1972 season after having spent eight years at Williard.
“I remember meeting Coach Cook for the first time at a basketball practice during my junior year, where he introduced himself and his first words to me were, ‘I hear you are my quarterback’,” Truex said. “I told Coach Cook that I only played quarterback my junior season, because we didn’t have anyone else and that I wasn’t his quarterback.
“He sat down and talked with me and eventually said that I’d try it during the preseason and if I didn’t want to play quarterback then we’d find someone else.”
“Well, you can guess what position that I ended up playing,” Truex added, with a laugh.
Cook guided the Tigers to a record of 81-36-3 from 1972-1984. The Tigers claimed three South Central Ohio League championships under his tutorage, had three one-loss seasons and were ranked in the top 10 in the state three times. Cook was named Central District Coach of the Year in 1983 and left CHS as the winningest coach in school history.
In 1975, Cook added the title of athletic director for grades 7-12, a position he held for the remainder of his days in Circleville. In recognition of his accomplishments, Cook was inducted into the CHS Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.
“Coach Cook was a very organized person back in the day when the job of athletic director was a one-person job,” Truex said. “His organization, attention to detail and the amount of time he put into his job, again, is something that you don’t often find today.”
Cook left Circleville following the 1984 season to take the job as head coach at Sandusky High School, where he coached for the next 17 seasons. He led the Blue Streaks to a 111-66 record, won seven conference championships and had three seasons with 10 or more wins. His 1987 squad won the first playoff game in school history and the 1988 team was named the UPI state poll champion. In 1990, Cook led the Blue Streaks to a playoff win over state powerhouse Massillon before losing in the state semifinal.
In total, Cook spent 37 years in public education and coached in five different decades. He has also coached basketball, baseball, and track. In 2002, he was inducted into the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame with a lifetime record of 205-126-5 and is also in the Sandusky Athletic Hall of Fame.
Truex went on to coach baseball and now softball at Circleville, where he led the Tigers to the state championship game in 2006 and back to the state Final Four the following season. He talked about the lessons he learned from Cook that he’s incorporated into his coaching style.
“Coach Cook taught the game correctly and really believed in coaching the fundamentals. He developed kids as people and players, and that’s something that really made an impact on me and what I try to do,” Truex said. “When you talk about Coach Cook, you are talking about a Woody Hayes-type coach when it came to discipline and doing things the right way. He left his mark here and also up in Sandusky.”