Brad Bournival and Albert Grindle | The Gazette
MEDINA — After a successful run as Medina boys basketball coach, Anthony Stacey has stepped down and will assume the same job at Sandusky.
“I relocated for my job,” Stacey said. “Obviously, it was a very hard decision. It’s been something I’ve been going over the last few weeks. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”
It was especially difficult for the 37-year-old when he informed the returning players Thursday.
“It’s a tough thing,” Stacey said. “The community of Medina has accepted me and taken me as one of their own. The kids and I have gotten along so well. I have such a strong relationship with them, but at the same time, sometimes you have to do what’s best for yourself.
“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to do besides, unfortunately, telling a player his father had passed away this year. It was hard to address the team and also to tell (Medina athletic director) Jeff Harrison. He’s one of my best friends now. He understands, but it was tough. I’m so thankful he took a chance on a young coach that was crazy and didn’t have much experience, but one who had the passion. I’m so lucky and grateful he hired me and gave me a shot.”
Stacey was 41-33 in three seasons, including 19-7 this winter. He is one of three boys basketball coaches in Medina County history — Wadsworth’s Dave Sladky (1981) and Medina’s Alan Darner (1983) are the others — to reach the regional finals.
Division II Sandusky went 6-18 overall and 3-9 in the historic Northern Ohio League, which featured eventual D-II state champion Norwalk and 21-win Ontario. The Blue Streaks have had seven consecutive non-winning seasons.
Stacey inherits a program in flux, as Sandusky has gone through five coaches since the start of the 2011-12 school year. Steve Keller left following that season and his replacement, Sandusky graduate DeMar Moore, who played with Stacey at Bowling Green, was arrested for operation of a vehicle while impaired before coaching a game.
The man selected to replace interim coach Bobby Langdon, who went 3-20 in 2012-13, never coached a game. Jason Prophet was arrested in June for driving while intoxicated, obstructing official business, driving under suspension, reckless operation and failure to control.
Keller, the freshman coach at the time, stepped in to guide Sandusky on an interim basis this season.
In Stacey’s mind, the attraction of a full-time position within the district negated any instability or fears.
“No. 1, they need stability,” he said. “They need discipline as far as playing the right way.
“I love challenges. That’s one of the best parts of coaching, getting kids to play right and getting them to buy in. I look forward to turning it around and turning it around relatively quick.”
Stacey came to Medina following stints as an assistant at now-defunct Admiral King and Lorain. He was selected over Chet Feldman, an assistant at Revere, Dave Potopsky, an assistant at West Muskingum, and Independence head coach Steve King, a Medina graduate and former head coach at Buckeye.
Stacey scored 1,720 career points and pulled down 704 rebounds at Midview High before graduating in 1995. He was a first-team D-I All-Ohio selection as a senior, when he averaged 30.1 points and 13.4 rebounds.
As a 6-foot-4, 250-pound power forward at Bowling Green, Stacey was a first-team All-Mid-American Conference selection as a redshirt junior, when he averaged 18.5 points and 5.6 rebounds. He was MAC Player of the Year as a senior in 1999-2000, when he averaged 16.8 points and 6.0 boards. Stacey went on to play professionally for 9½ years in Spain.
The Bees went 5-15 in Stacey’s first regular season and, inspired by the return of Michigan State recruit Kenny Kaminski from shoulder surgery, made a Cinderella run to the University of Akron Division I Regional final, where they lost to Toledo Whitmer 51-39.
That game was vacated following the season when Panthers guard LeRoy Alexander was ruled ineligible by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Medina was 12-11 in 2012-13 but in the offseason picked up Girard transfer Craig Randall, who played for the Ohio Basketball Club AAU program Stacey is a coach for. The results were immediate, as Medina flirted with the Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division title this season before ultimately falling to Uniontown Lake in the Copley D-I District title game.
Randall, a junior, and senior Branden Wilkins were first-team All-Gazette choices. This season’s team also featured 6-10 center Jon Teske, who has two seasons remaining.
“It’s disappointing,” Harrison said. “You put a lot of work into putting people in situations where they can be successful and try to find the right fit for your community, your school and your program. When you find someone like Anthony who is a good fit and a positive for our program, to lose that is a difficult pill to swallow.
“By the same token, the program is bigger than any one person. Coach Stacey built upon what Jody Peters started here and he put the program in a great spot. It’s an opportunity to improve and get better, and that’s what we’re looking to do.”
Harrison said there is no timetable to replace Stacey. A deadline for prospective candidates to apply has not been set.
Contact Brad Bournival and Albert Grindle at email@example.com.