Last year, Tallmadge High School handed the keys to a first-year head coach to lead its girls basketball team.
The Blue Devils will do the same thing this season. They certainly hope their latest rookie experiment works out just as well.
Pending board approval, Joe Leonard is expected to be named the head coach of the Tallmadge High School girls basketball team, according to Tallmadge athletic director Tim Mosher.
Leonard, a Hudson resident, was the head coach of Strongsville’s junior varsity boys basketball team.
The Holy Name graduate spent three years as a basketball coach at his alma mater in Parma Heights and he also was a coach at Padua Franciscan in Parma for five seasons.
Leonard, 49, takes over a Blue Devils’ squad that finished 15-10 and reached Division II district play despite having two freshmen in the starting lineup for much of last season.
"I'm absolutely excited about coaching the team," Leonard said. "The team has a lot of underclassmen who played valuable minutes last year and the youth programs have also done well."
Leonard played point guard at Holy Name. He graduated with a business degree from the University of Toledo and is currently the operations manager for Season Produce in Cleveland.
Leonard should feel quite comfortable in Tallmadge. There are some people who are very close to him that make their home in a town known for its historic circle.
"I have family that live in Tallmadge and have always been impressed by the strong community feel and support," Leonard said.
Prior to coaching, Leonard spent more than 10 years as a high school basketball official. As for his game plan, Leonard will go with a wait-and-see approach.
"I don't have a set offense or defense that I will run," Leonard said. "I will base it on the strengths of the girls."
Due to a deadly respiratory tract infection known as the coronavirus, Leonard has not been able to meet his players in person. He plans to get together with them shortly, though, even if he has to do so through a mechanical device.
"I have not talked to the kids yet," Leonard said. "There is a virtual meeting scheduled for next week that I look forward to. I have watched a lot of films from last season and feel like I know some of them already."
The Blue Devils are expected to enter the 2020-21 season with most of their core players back in the mix. They lost just three seniors to graduation, including point guard Lizzie Bickar, who scored more than 1,000 career points for Tallmadge. Bickar, who plans to play golf at Indiana State University later this summer, is the daughter of Brett Bickar, who resigned after just one season as the team’s head coach.
The Blue Devils, who won five consecutive games prior to their loss in district play, are seeking their third consecutive district appearance this winter.
"My goals are to continue to build upon the solid foundation that is in place, especially the youth programs," Leonard said. "I do plan on sticking around as it so close to my house and it is a desirable job."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_Gannett.