HARTVILLE  For the second time in less than a year, Lake Center Christian School has a new varsity boys basketball coach.

Ryan McGonagle was officially hired as the program’s new head coach last week, taking over a program that ended last season with interim leadership following the mid-season resignation of first-year head coach Philip Budervic. 

“We are very excited about the passion he has for coaching and his ability to connect with young people. We believe that he will bring an added excitement and attractiveness to the Lake Center Christian Boys Basketball Program,” LCC athletic director Shane Byler said.

McGonagle is a 2014 graduate of Kent State University and has served as an assistant at both St. Thomas Aquinas and GlenOak. His most recent coaching stint was as the junior varsity boys basketball coach at GlenOak and he works as a physical education teacher in the Plain Local School District.

Despite its recent coaching changes - Byler served as the program’s previous head coach but stepped down prior to the start of last season due to his increased duties as the school’s athletic director and baseball coach - LCC has had winning records in its first two seasons in the Portage Trail Conference and has shown it can compete with conference heavyweights such as Mogadore, Crestwood and Garrettsville.

The state of the program and the fact that the Tigers have positive momentum as part of the PTC in the past two seasons were among the factors that appealed to McGonagle as he sought his first head coaching job.

“I was drawn to Lake Center Christian because of the culture of the school. I believe it provides an opportunity to build a quality basketball program and an opportunity for me to grow spiritually,” McGonagle said. “I feel the basketball program has a solid foundation which was previously laid by Coach Byler. Through hard work and dedication, we want to continue to build the basketball program.”

When it comes to the style of basketball the Tigers will play under their new head coach, McGonagle isn’t quite ready to lay out the specifics of his system and how it will look on the court.

“I’m not sure what our brand of basketball will be yet because I have not evaluated all of the players,” McGonagle said. “I think the important thing to do is to be able to cater your brand to the strengths of your players. As I learn more about the players, I will gain a better idea on our brand of basketball.”

While he may not be ready to commit to a specific style of basketball, McGonagle is already working to get a better handle on the players he’s likely to have next season. He’s already held a meeting with players and parents to lay out his expectations for the offseason and the plan is to get into the gym as soon as OHSAA regulations allow in order to start building toward the coming season.

The top priority, according to the first-time head coach, will be skill development among individual players. One of the big steps will be replacing 1,000-pointer scorer John Paul Miller, who averaged better than 23 points per game last season and was the focal point for the offense.

Despite becoming the new coach at LCC, McGonagle will remain in his current position teaching with Plain Local Schools. That dynamic of working at one school and coaching at another can be challenging for a variety of reasons, but McGonagle believes he can tackle the challenge and make it work going forward.

“I love working in Plain (Local) and I believe that it is my home from a teaching standpoint, but when the opportunity presented itself to coach at LCCS I just couldn't pass it up,” McGonagle said. 

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