CONVOY – First Doug Etzler got a shock. Then he felt a tug.
Etzler, who was introduced as Crestview’s new boys basketball coach on Wednesday night in a gym named for his dad, was surprised when Jeremy Best announced he was stepping down as the Knights coach a month after they won the Division IV state championship.
But once Etzler knew Best was leaving coaching after 17 ultra-successful seasons at Crestview, he felt drawn home to the place where he was an all-state player and his dad is a coaching legend.
Etzler and Best are both in their mid 40s. So, even though he might have always dreamed of coaching at his alma mater, Etzler didn’t expect it to happen anytime soon.
“I’m not thinking about the Crestview job because it was in awesome hands. I can’t say how much I respect what Coach Best has done here. I wasn’t even thinking about this until it opened up. And here we are tonight,” Etzler said.
Etzler has been the basketball coach at Teays Valley High School in Ashville in Pickaway County the last 14 seasons. He began his coaching career as an assistant at Delphos St. John’s and was a Shawnee assistant for five seasons.
Teays Valley was the Mid-State League champion this year, which was the third league title it has won with Etzler as its coach, and finished 14-8. His overall record at Teays Valley was 160-152.
Etzler was a four-year starter at Crestview from 1987-1991. He is the school career leader in scoring (1,595 points) and assists (732). His 732 assists are third all-time in that category in Ohio behind Upper Sandusky’s Jacob Diebler and Lincolnview’s Brandon Pardon, according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s web site.
He played four years at Ohio State and was a captain for the Buckeyes in the 1994-1995 season when he averaged 16.3 points a game.
“They (Teays Valley) are going to be really good again. But the tug to come back here was hard not to listen to. It’s hard to turn down Crestview,” Etzler said.
Ray Etzler was Crestview’s boys basketball coach for 28 years from the mid-1960s until 1994. His career record was 445-171 and his teams won nine league championships, five district championships and advanced to the Class A state semifinals in 1971.
Doug Etzler and his brothers, Andy and Dan, played for their dad. Crestview named its gym the Ray Etzler Gymnasium in 2011.
Doug Etzler called becoming Crestview’s coach “a dream come true” and his dad’s advice was to pursue that dream.
Ray Etzler said, “He said ‘I got a call from Crestview.’ He said, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘What are you going to be like where you are?’ And he said, ‘We’re going to be OK.’ But he said this had always been a dream of his and I said, ‘Then you chase your dream.’ ”
The details of Etzler becoming Crestview’s next coach were worked out last weekend when he was in Fort Wayne, where his son was playing with his AAU team.
“From a basketball standpoint, I knew I wanted it. It was going to come down to could we get the whole family here. I can’t move here with one teaching job. My wife is a teacher, too. We were able to get that ironed out and it was just a matter of making sure my family (his wife Lisa, a daughter who will be a junior and a son who will be a freshman) was on board,” Etzler said.
“Crestview basketball is something special to me but it’s not just me moving down here. I had to make sure all the pieces fit together,” he said.
And Crestview thinks it has found something special in its new coach.
When asked how many applicants were considered, athletic director Trent Kreischer said, “It wasn’t a long list, especially when we found out there was mutual interest.”