When it came time to select a new boys basketball coach at Whitmer High School to replace Bruce Smith, athletic director Tom Snook said the school followed the formula it used last year for football.
Whitmer stayed in house, choosing assistant coach Ryan Brown, who served the past three seasons with the varsity team under Smith.
For Brown, 37, this will be his first head coaching post, pending approval May 15 from the Washington Local Schools board of education.
“I’m obviously very excited,” Brown said. “We’ve had a great few years, we’ve got some great talent here still, and I think we’ve got some great younger talent coming up.
“We want to stay on the same track that we’ve been on. We want to compete every year for a [Three Rivers Athletic Conference] championship and, more importantly, for district and regional titles, and the opportunity for a state championship.”
An optimistic Snook compared the selection to Whitmer’s choice of Jerry Bell, who succeeded Joe Palka as the Panthers’ head football coach. In Bell’s first season last fall, Whitmer went 14-1 and finished as Division I state runner-up, the best season in school history.
Whitmer will return four players from its 2012-13 basketball varsity, which posted an 18-6 overall record (12-2 TRAC), but included in the graduation void will be Wisconsin-bound All-Ohioan Nigel Hayes, and All-TRAC guard Ricardo Smith, who will play at Findlay.
“Guys like that aren’t replaceable,” Brown said. “We don’t have any players in our program like that right now.
“But we’re two weeks in [to offseason workouts], and every kid has been at every weight-training session we’ve had. We’re going to put the time in, and we’re going to work hard.”
Brown, a 1995 Start High School graduate, earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Toledo. He has taught physical education at Whitmer for the past 11 years, and been been coaching basketball since entering college.
He began as an assistant under his brother, Bob Brown, as the junior varsity girls coach at Start. His coaching trek has also included boys basketball stops at St. Francis de Sales, Central Catholic, a previous season under Smith at Whitmer, and two seasons as the JV coach under Ed Heintschel at St. John’s Jesuit (2008-10).
He was part of the Titans’ program that advanced to the Division I state semifinals in 2009, and Whitmer’s run to the D-I title game under Smith in 2012.
“I didn’t get to do as much under Ed, because I was the JV coach, but I was with them enough,” Brown said. “Being a varsity assistant under Bruce gave me a lot more opportunity to learn.
“I’ve had the opportunity to be around successful programs. That’s going to help me. I’ve also been in situations where we weren’t successful. I’ve been able to take different things from different coaches and see what works and what doesn’t work.”
Following the season, coach Smith retired from his Whitmer basketball position after 22 seasons (306-165 record). He was 359-202 overall as a head coach, including his previous time as head coach at Delta. Smith will also be retiring from Washington Local as a teacher following this school year.
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