It wasn’t an easy decision, but ultimately, the boys basketball head coaching job was an opportunity Kyle McBrain just couldn’t resist.
“Growing up I kind of knew that professional sports probably wasn’t in my future. I’ve always been a sports guy, so I knew coaching was a route I was probably leaning toward,” said McBrain, who was hired on July 13 to replace Joe Vanzo after Vanzo’s contract was not renewed by the school board in a 4-3 vote. “The baseball job, and now the basketball job, were kind of dream jobs for me. When the opportunity became available, I felt like I couldn’t pass it up.”
McBrain, a 2004 Hillsboro graduate who played both sports for the Toppers, was hired last year as a junior high physical education teacher and coach for the Hillsboro High School baseball and eighth grade basketball teams. Before that, he coached and taught at Staunton High School, including a five-year stint as girls basketball coach between 2014 and 2019.
McBrain’s overall record in that span was 50-88, but the last two years his teams went 15-12 and 23-9, with the 23 wins a school record for the Lady Bulldogs.
McBrain won’t have to make that kind of turnaround with the Hiltoppers, who went 13-0 last season, but he knows that there will be challenges he’ll have to face taking a position that opened up controversially.
“I was pulling for Joe. I always had respect for Joe. But right now, I have to control what I can control and move forward with the kids,” McBrain said of Vanzo, who received an outpouring of support from the community after his dismissal. “I think having a few relationships established is definitely going to help. A few of the kids know my coaching style, but I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone and getting some work in these last few weeks of summer.”
That will be another challenge for McBrain as many teams fine tune their skill sets with camps and open gyms over the summer, much of which is already gone.
“My philosophy is keep it simple and make sure we understand everything before we move on,” McBrain said about the limited time. “At least if we can get the basics down over the next few weeks, we’ll have a head start going into winter.”
Stylistically, McBrain focuses on a new school approach, giving players freedom to create scoring opportunities in space. While the Toppers will run some set plays, those aren’t something McBrain want’s his team to rely on.
“Early on, when I started coaching basketball, I wanted to be the guy who ran this play or that play,” he said. “But the longer you do it, you kind of want the players to be the ones making the plays.”
The Xs and Os of the season will sort themselves out down the line and for now, McBrain is just looking forward to taking the next step in his coaching journey.
“I’m excited about the opportunity and we’re going to go out and have some fun.”
McBrain’s hiring wasn’t the only one to take place at the July Hillsboro School Board meeting. A month after his hiring as the Topper football coach, Joe Reed’s coaching staff has taken shape as well.
Reed’s brother, Zach, was hired as an elementary PE teacher, assistant football coach and boys track coach, while his father, Bill, was also added as an assistant coach. Both also assisted at Athens, with Bill serving in the same capacity at Carthage as well.
Rounding out the staff are Jeremy Connor, Corbin Govaia and Roger Fath, who will stay on the sidelines after working with Coach Aaron Duff, Reed’s predecessor.
Other coaching moves included the rehiring of Jessica Furness as junior high cheer coach, approval of Elissa Leek as volunteer assistant junior high cheer coach and Rick Vogel as volunteer assistant golf coach.