By Ray Hamill — The Crusaders will see a changing of the guard in more ways than one on the basketball court this year, with Issac Gildea recently named new head coach of the boys varsity team.
Gildea, a local legend in the sport who starred at McKinleyville High, CR and HSU, takes over from another local legend, Steve Thrap, who coached 17 years with the St. Bernard’s program before stepping down after this past season.
But that’s not the only change in store for the team, with 10 seniors moving on from this year’s roster of 16.
“Our team is going to be different,” Gildea said. “I coached a lot of those seniors in eighth grade, so I knew them pretty well. But they’re gone, and all of the kids underneath them now can make a name for themselves.”
The cupboard certainly isn’t bare, with juniors Jake Fairfield and Bode Joyner and freshman Owen Shanahan all good players who will likely be ready to take on bigger roles next winter.
Gildea, whose hiring was announced on Friday, says he has not yet talked to his players, but is looking forward to the opportunity to work with them this summer and wants to give them the chance to prove themselves in a fresh start.
“I want it to be a fair and equal opportunity for every kid,” the new coach said.
As for what we can expect to see from an Issac Gildea coached team, the new coach says that will depend on the players and that he will have to be adaptable.
“The players kind of dictate where we go,” he said. “I think defensively, unity will always be a part of what we do, and we’ve got to play hard and we’ve got to be connected and be mentally tough. But offensively, we’ve got to see what we have.
“As a coaching staff, I need to be ready for anything. I need to be prepared and ready to roll for anything the team needs to do.”
Gildea described Thrap as a legend and a coach who is well respected around the league, and says the timing of the opportunity for him was too good to pass over.
“It just seemed to be the right moment,” he said. “And it just seemed to be a good fit. And I’m excited for it.”
Gildea, who has two young children, said he needed to make sure his family commitments were taken care of first before he could, as he put it, “really dedicate time to the team,” and that was a big reason behind him taking over a varsity program.
Gildea is currently in the process of filling out his staff.