Despite massive cuts in its teaching core, Black River didn't have to leave campus to find a boys basketball coach.
High school German teacher Don Brunker will become the 14th coach in school history. He succeeds Bryan Morgan, who lost his teaching job and declined an offer to stay as coach after compiling a 29-35 record over three seasons.
Brunker was the head coach at Ashland Mapleton last winter, compiling a 3-18 record. He previously served as junior varsity coach at Black River under Ron Hoyt and at Highland under Chris Kestner.
"It means a lot to be able to be in the building because of the relationships I can build with the kids," said Brunker, who beat out popular middle school coach Jamie Maslanka for the job. "I already know the kids pretty well and it was a tough decision to leave Mapleton. I enjoyed it there, but this is a better situation as far as being able to build the program. I'm looking forward to that terrific opportunity."
The 30-year-old Norton resident takes over a squad that finished 10-12, 5-8 in the Patriot Athletic Conference this winter. It marked the second time since 1969 the school had back-to-back 10-win seasons.
Brunker, a 1998 Youngstown Boardman High graduate, has plenty of veteran pieces returning, although top scorers Carl Younglas (14.3 ppg) and Curtis Klosski (11.8) graduated.
Upcoming seniors Jon Sas (center), Jake O'Connor (guard), Cody Klosski (guard), Mat Stuart (forward), Joe Tutie (forward) and Matt Joppeck (forward) will make up the core. Center John Guilford is also expected to return, meaning the Pirates' full rotation will have varsity experience.
"I think certainly Carl Younglas and Curtis Klosski are significant losses," Brunker said. "They really made Black River go last year, but there's certainly some strength coming back.
"Jon Sas played a phenomenal game (against Mapleton). I know Joe Tutie also played well and Jacob O'Connor was very solid. Those three coming back as starters are very good. We also have talented kids off the bench that I'm looking forward to working with."
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.