Tsilimos retires as Lisbon’s winningest coach

LISBON — Jim Tsilimos guided the Lisbon football team for 25 years.

This fall, there will be someone else on the sidelines for the Blue Devils.

Tsilimos, who became the winningest coach in school history this past season, has stepped down as head coach.

“We knew he wasn’t going to go much longer,” Lisbon Superintendent Joe Siefke said. “Each year we gave him time. Every year we got him back, it was a blessing for us.”

Tsilimos met with team about it on Dec. 19 and the school announced it Tuesday.

“We told them what my plan was and I thanked them all,” he said. “I wanted to wait around until the weight program was up and started. They gave me hugs and that was it.”

Tsilimos went 147-115 in his 25 years at Lisbon — including 110-79 from 1990-2007 and 37-36 from 2011-2017.

“I turned 64 in December and I felt I took the program as far as I could get it,” he said. “If I miss it, I’ll come back. If not, so be it.”

He led the Blue Devils to six league titles and eight state playoff appearances, including the 1995 Division V state championship.

“The state championship was something, like I told the kids the day we won it, we’ll take it to our graves,” Tsilimos said. “There were a lot of good kids from 25 teams. They kept me young and going. It’s great to be around the kids. It’s the kids from Lisbon that kept me coming back.”

Tsilimos said he felt it was the right time to step down after guiding Lisbon to three state playoff berths.

“A lot of people leave places mad and upset,” he said. “They feel they they weren’t given the right shake or whatever and I don’t feel that way. I wanted to leave happy and I am.”

Tsilimos appreciated the efforts of his players and assistant coaches and the support of the administration.

“It was a lot of fun,” Tsilimos said. “There were a lot of ups and downs. We had great years and we had not so great years. That’s all part of it being in a small school.”

“If you talk to anyone associated with Jim, they will say how humble he is,” Siefke said. “To win a state championship and then put the program and the kids first instead of it being about yourself …”

Tsilimos plans to continue teaching the Career Based Instruction program as a retire-rehire.

“The plan is, if they let me teach, I want to teach until next December,” he said.

He also will spend more time at the family condo in Fort Myers, Fla.

“All coaches who have been in it as long as I’ve been in it, it’s a lot of time,” Tsilimos said. “The problem is I’ve never watched college football during the season. There are some college games I’d like to see and some stadiums. There are some of our kids playing in college and I’ll have some time to go watch them.”

You can bet he’ll be taking in a Lisbon football game, too.

“He told me there are six starters back on each side of the ball,” Siefke said. “That’s typical Jim Tsilimos. He was going to set it up for the next guy.”

“I know I’ll miss it, I’m not going to lie,” Tsilimos said. “If I miss it too much, I’ll be back.”

Lisbon notes

• The district is posting the head coaching position internally through Jan. 10 and is accepting applications through Jan. 12 by contacting athletic director Kyle Bing at kyle.bing@omeresa.net.

“We don’t believe there are any teachers on staff who will apply,” Siefke said.

¯ “I’m still doing track and I’ll be around for that,” Tsilimos said. “Whoever takes over, I’ll be available to help if they ask.”

• Lisbon’s 1995 squad remains Columbiana County’s only state championship football team. Tsilimos realizes how special that season was with each passing year.

“I do now,” he said. “At that time, it was fun and you said let’s do it again. You have to be lucky and have the right kids. They weren’t selfish and didn’t care who scored the touchdowns. They just wanted to win. When you’re surrounded by kids with that attitude, you’re going to win a lot of football games.”

• Three of his assistant coaches from that team are currently superintendents, Siefke, Don Mook at Columbiana and John Wilson at Southern Local.

“I was just a kid getting my feet wet, then took over the girls basketball program and the boys some time later,” Siefke said. “Jim was instrumental in my life in modeling how to run a program effectively. I learned quite a bit from him.”

• Lisbon is coming off a 6-5 season, but lost its last four games after the school district dedicated a rock at War Memorial Stadium in Tsilimos’ honor for setting the school win mark.

“I don’t know if the rock had anything to do with it,” Tsilimos said. “We didn’t win because we didn’t execute, including myself.”

¯ What does Tsilimos want to be remembered for the most?

“That I was a hard worker and I cared about or kids in Lisbon, athletically and academically,” he said.

• Tsilimos surpassed the win mark of 142 set by legendary Bud Bucher.

“The tradition and things we have here, Bud started it all,” Tsilimos said. “Bud set the standard here and I was fortunate enough to be here long enough to break his record. I’m sure some young coach is going to come along and break my record.”