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By David Pan 

Major changes for Kamiak with coaching departures

Marauders also looking for new girls basketball coach

 

Last updated 5/27/2020 at 3:15pm

David Pan

Brandon Corsi resigned as Kamiak's head boys basketball coach after two seasons. He previously was the junior varsity coach for eight years.

The sidelines at Kamiak are going to look a lot different next year.

Boys basketball coach Brandon Corsi, girls basketball coach Brian Norman and boys wrestling coach Bryan Stelling – who have a combined 30-plus years of high school coaching experience – have stepped down from their respective positions.

Corsi and wife Whitney welcomed the birth of their daughter Raegan on March 18.

"It was a tough decision," said Corsi, who was head coach for the last two seasons and the junior varsity coach for eight. "I went back and forth, over and over."

But in the end, Corsi chose his family.

"My family has sacrificed a lot in the last 12 to 13 years," Corsi said. "I felt like it was time to prioritize my family."

Corsi will continue to teach physical education at Olympic View Middle School.

The 2003 Kamiak graduate put a significant amount of time and effort into the Kamiak program. Corsi feels he got a lot back.

"I've come away with a lot of friendships and relationships that are going to last beyond the basketball court," he said.

The Knights advanced to districts during his two years as head coach.

"I'm definitely proud of the group that made it to the playoffs," Corsi said. "I thought the coaches and players did an excellent job of getting the job done on the court and also coming together off the court."

The Knights graduate only one senior from this year's team, so Corsi's successor should have a solid squad.

"The program is going to be in a very good place," Corsi said. "They will have an opportunity to go make some memories and see if they can continue their season further than they did last year."

Corsi hopes the next coach will keep the program headed in the right direction.

"I'd like to see someone that's going to lead and be a positive role model for all the players in the program."

Corsi said that he likely will get back into coaching.

"Obviously, basketball is always going to be there," he said. "The early years with my daughter are not. I definitely envision myself being back on the sidelines at some point. I do see myself coaching basketball again."

Norman, the head girls basketball coach for seven years and an assistant, junior varsity and C team coach for nine years, said that it was just time for a break. He resigned shortly after the playoffs ended. Norman planned to make the announcement at the end of the year banquet, but that was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this week, Kamiak hired May Tupua as the new head coach. Tupua previously was a junior varsity and varsity assistant coach at Lynnwood High School for the last three years. (See related story: https://www.mukilteobeacon.com/story/2020/04/29/sports/kamiak-hires-new-girls-basketball-coach/19940.html )

Norman wanted to free up his schedule so he could spend more time with his family after 16 years on the Kamiak sidelines.

"I'm looking to maybe have a little more summer, besides basketball," Norman said. "It's not something I took lightly. ... I thought about it for a while. It's the best decision right now."

Norman teaches physical education at Endeavor Elementary School.

The Knights graduate eight seniors from a district playoff team.

"We've got some nice young talent coming up," Norman said.

The most successful seasons in Norman's tenure were in 2016 and 2017, when the Knights advanced to the state regional tournament.

"I've enjoyed all of the kids. It's a pretty rewarding, yet challenging type of job," Norman said. "Sometimes you get more credit than you deserve and more blame than you deserve. ... I've enjoyed my entire experience."

Coaching is a time-consuming profession.

"It's not just November through February," Norman said. "There is a lot of time involved in and out of season."

Norman was getting ready to go watch some eighth-grade players and to start planning the program's annual kids camp when he realized he needed to take a break.

He isn't ruling out a return to coaching, but it would have to be the right opportunity.

"I'm not a spring chicken. I have grandkids, whose lives I'd like to be involved in."

Stelling's decision was the result of both personal and professional considerations. Stelling wrapped up his 10th year as head boys wrestling coach last season.

"I'm getting older. It takes a lot of energy to be a high school wrestling coach," Stelling said. "I need to be spending time with my kids."

A new job in which he will be focusing on career and college readiness at Kamiak also meant more evening hours and potential conflicts with the high school wrestling schedule.

Stelling plans to continue coaching football and wrestling at Harbour Pointe Middle School. Most middle school sports are in the afternoon, so there aren't as many scheduling issues for Stelling.

Three highlights stand out when Stelling thinks about his 10 years leading the wrestling program. Kamiak won the league title in his fourth season as head coach. Later on, the Knights also won a state academic championship, and Stelling was in the corner when Ally de la Cruz won the program's first and only state title in 2017.

Stelling is impressed by the kind of athletes that turn out for wrestling. He noted that recently three of his five captains went on to attend service academies.

"That was a great accomplishment," he said.

Stelling views wrestling as a learning tool for young people

"I want the next coach to teach the kids to have perseverance, not just with wrestling, but with life," Stelling said. "Wrestling builds character and wrestling reveals character. I really hope they get a head coach who embraces those values."

For Mariner's Jamie Gepner, sports was a part of her life since she was a little girl.

So the decision to step down after two years as head girls basketball coach wasn't easy.

But with a 2 ½-year-old daughter, a choice had to be made.

"There is only so much time in the day," said Gepner, who previously coached the JV team for one year and C team for three. "I love it. The girls are just special. It was definitely a tough decision. I really had to ponder it."

Because she started as the C team coach, Gepner was able to follow some of her players through their entire high school careers.

"I was able to see their growth as young women," said Gepner, who teaches math at Mariner.

The Marauders have faced significant challenges on the court with a team that lacked the experience that powerhouse schools, like Glacier Peak and Lake Stevens, have year in and year out.

Mariner recorded only four league victories, all against Cascade, the last two years.

"It's really hard. The reality of the situation is that we've got girls who are starting to play as juniors. We have brand new players as freshmen, going against girls who've been playing since they were very young."

Mariner also often suffered significant turnover in players on a regular basis.

David Pan

Former Kamiak coach Bryan Stelling celebrates as Ally de la Cruz wins the school's first state wrestling title in 2017.

"When we finally get up to speed and start to make progress, the season is over," Gepner said. "You might have a different group of girls next year. You start over every year. ... You might think you have six girls returning, and you get two."

Her advice to the next coach is to be flexible.

"You have to be willing to take the players from where they are and build from there," Gepner said. "You have to be patient. I also think the teams that I coached had some really great personalities. So you have to be willing to work with all the different personalities the girls bring to the team."

Gepner, who also coached junior varsity softball at Mariner, isn't turning in her clipboard and her whistle for good.

"At some point," she said, "I'd like to get back into coaching sports when the time is right for my family."

 

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