BRUNSWICK — Brunswick had success hiring a young, inexperienced girls basketball coach in 2010, so the Blue Devils figured they’d try it again.
Brunswick freshman boys coach Anthony Ocacio, 25, has been recommended to the board of education to replace Halle Schmidt. The hiring of the 2011 Brunswick graduate is expected to be approved at the June 26 board meeting.
Schmidt resigned shortly after this season to tend to her newborn child. She compiled a 104-86 record in eight seasons and had consistent success in the tournament.
“In my life, this is something I’ve always dreamed of,” Ocacio said Wednesday. “Growing up, I knew I wanted to teach and coach in Brunswick. Now you’re seeing your dream come true, and you pinch yourself every day like, ‘Is this really happening?’
“I just want to keep going. Right now I feel like I haven’t woken up from a dream. It’s something I’m very passionate about, and every time I go in working with these girls, I’m excited.”
Ocacio was a backup guard and team captain as a senior in 2010-11, when center Pat Forsythe was an Ohio Mr. Basketball finalist. He began his coaching career as a volunteer assistant at Louisville High during his senior year at the University of Mount Union and returned to Brunswick to coach the Willetts Middle School eighth-grade team the following season.
Ocacio spent the last two seasons as freshman coach, compiling 13-9 and 12-10 records while intently studying legendary varsity coach Joe Mackey, who, like Schmidt, vouched for Ocacio.
“(Mackey) instills a winning attitude in teams and what it takes to build a solid program,” said Ocacio, who has a degree in middle childhood education and is in charge of the online education program at Brunswick High. “All the little things you have to — staying up late nights, running the youth camps, the constant going out and scouting —prepares your program from the time they hit the travel leagues to the time they hit the varsity level.
“Working with him and playing for him, I’ve seen him do that for many, many years. When I told myself I’d become a varsity coach, it’s something I’d really want to continue doing.”
Brunswick was 16-9 overall in 2017-18 and placed third in the Greater Cleveland Conference behind Division I state runner-up Solon and regional finalist Strongsville. The Blue Devils also set a Medina County record with 179 3-pointers.
Four-year letterwinner Eileen Salisbury and Tennessee-Martin softball recruit Gabbi Campbell graduated, but the rest of the roster returns.
Angela Fink averaged 9.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists and can play four positions, while Natalie Galaida broke a school record with 68 3-pointers. Centers Maddy Grabowski and Anna Krizsa also are expected to be back, giving the team options in the post.
“What I love about Nat and Ang is they both are really passionate about the sport,” said Ocacio, whose sister Julianne played for the 2007 regional-qualifying Brunswick girls team. “Even when I was one of the boys’ assistants, they were constantly showing up to the boys open gyms and skill sessions. When I joined the girls team, I knew they were already going to be there.
“I love their leadership, work ethic and passion for the sport. Those two are going to be the leaders of the team, and I know they’ve also made the transition a lot easier for me because I’ve had that relationship with them. It’s building the foundation that we had (with the boys).”
Both Blue Devils boys and girls teams have had a reputation for 3-point shooting and hard-nosed toughness. Ocacio doesn’t expect either to change but will adjust year to year.
“In my opinion, you can’t have a structured way to play,” he said. “You can have philosophy down, but it depends on who’s coming back each year.
“Obviously this year we’re returning two starters in the backcourt and a few in the frontcourt. I have an idea of what we want to play.”