By Kevin Connelly
While most area high schools are preparing for the start of a new football season, Heartland Christian School is looking farther down the road towards a new season in a different sport.
Athletic director Susanne Shields has hired former Division II assistant coach Keith Tate to take over the varsity boys basketball team and former United assistant Chris Kadvan to do the same for the girls team.
After having to search for not one, but two head coaches, Shields believes she’s found the future of Lions basketball.
“Everybody is excited at the caliber of coaches we were able to bring in and we know they are going to do great things,” she said. “We’re really excited about what’s happening at Heartland.”
The boys program will hardly be a rebuilding job for Tate, 36, as they finished with an 18-5 record last season. The Toledo Rogers graduate, who’s entering his 13th year of coaching, is excited about bringing a new mentality to an already talented team.
“I call it organized chaos,” the first-time high school head coach said. “We’re going to play pressure defense — all-out for 32 minutes.
“We’re going to pick them up full-court, zone trap, zone run — it’s going to be a physical brand of basketball, but it’s going to be a fun style of basketball.”
After spending time at numerous small colleges in a number of different roles, Tate has taken the last year off coaching to work as a recreational therapist and youth counselor at the Cuyahoga Juvenille Correctional Facility.
He feels his work there has helped him learn a lot about himself.
“If I can develop them as a person first, then they’ll be a way better basketball player later on,” Tate said.
The school has also hired Wesley Best, a former Lordstown assistant, to coach its boys junior varsity team.
As for the girls program, Kadvan will have a little more work to do.
Following a 4-18 season a year ago, an “identity change” is the first thing that needs to happen, according to Kadvan.
“I want to create a new identity here,” the Struthers graduate said. “Nobody knows or talks about girls basketball here and I want to change that. We’re ready to make our own way.”
Kadvan, 25, said he was offered the job two days before his honeymoon. He called Shields the next day to accept, giving him and his wife, “a nice little start to the honeymoon.”
Although he’s only been in coaching for three years, the teams he’s been involved with have experienced a lot of success. As an assistant under Sam Mathias at United last season, he helped lead the team on a Division III district championship run. It was during his two years there that Kadvan said he learned how to run a program and about the importance of building relationships with his players.
He plans to implement those ideas at Heartland.
“I’ve always set the bar high,” Kadvan said. “I believe if you set the bar high, then you’re constantly challenging individuals.”