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BOYS BASKETBALL: Big news from the coaching world, DCD hires a coach, Romulus loses one

By: Scott Burnstein, June 13, 2013, 10:00 am

The bombshells dropped on the Metro Detroit prep boys basketball landscape were twofold Wednesday.

Both had to do with defending state champions.

First, Birmingham Detroit Country, the defending champs in Class B, hired Utica Ford’s Mark Bray as its new head coach, replacing the departing Kurt Keener, winner of nine state titles on the bench in his three and half decades pacing the sidelines for the Yellowjackets and now off to coach at Desert Mountain High School in Scotsdale, Arizona.

Then, Romulus head coach Nate Oats, only three months removed from raising a Class A state title, announced that he was leaving the Eagles to join Bobby Hurley’s new staff at the University of Buffalo as an assistant.

Hurley, named head coach of the Bison in April, was an All-American point guard at Duke in the early 1990s and played in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings. His dad, Bob Hurley Sr, is a legendary high school hoops coach from New Jersey.

Romulus has named alum and junior varsity coach Jarrett Smith (Michigan) its interim head coach. The Eagles are expected to still open the hiring process up to candidates outside the program.

Oats coached 11 years at Romulus, and like Keener, turned his team into not just a state heavyweight, but a genuine national power as well, frequently dotting the USA Today’s Top 25. Before getting over the hump and winning a state championship back in March, Oats had been knocking on the door vigorously. Prior to 2013, the Eagles had appeared in the final four five times in the past eight seasons.

The Oats announcement wasn’t as shocking as the Bray hiring. Rumors of Oats’ leaving for the college ranks have been swirling since the spring.

Country Day’s tagging Bray as its coach took almost everyone off-guard. The Yellowjackets coaching position – a fervently sought position – was expected to go to a high-profile candidate or an “insider,” such as Rick Palmer, Keener’s assistant, former player and protégé. Keener endorsed Palmer to be his replacement.

Bray’s profile is quite low, coaching in the shadows in Macomb County. Between 2010-2013, his Ford squads only accumulated an overall record of 32-54. That said, Bray’s reputation as a teacher of the game, gentlemen and hard-worker are unquestioned. He cut his teeth at the college level, working as coordinator of basketball operations at Central Michigan until 2004 when he came on board at Ford.

Unlike whoever assumes the post at Romulus, Bray will jump into the deep end of the pool right off the bat, immediately having to cope with state-championship expectations. The learning curve will no doubt be steep.

With Country Day returning a large core of last season’s squad, including 2014 Mr. Basketball candidate and Xavier-commit Edmond Sumner, an all-state point guard, the Yellowjackets will be preseason favorites to repeat as crown-holders in Bay’s inaugural campaign handling clipboard duties.