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By David Pan 

Harbour Pointe Middle School teacher takes over Kamiak boys hoops program

 

Last updated 5/27/2020 at 12:15pm

Joe DeGrazia

After wrapping up his first season as the head boys basketball coach at Bishop Blanchet High School, Joe DeGrazia planned on continuing with the Braves.

But then an opening arose that DeGrazia simply could not ignore.

The Harbour Pointe Middle School teacher wasn't searching for another coaching position when he saw that Kamiak was looking for a new head boys basketball coach.

"It was right in my backyard," DeGrazia said. "How could I not apply for that? I'm fortunate that it worked out."

DeGrazia was officially hired as the Knights' new coach last week. He replaces former coach Brandon Corsi, who said he stepped down to spend more time with his family.

In a news release announcing the hiring, Kamiak athletic director Sean Monica said, "We had a very deep candidate pool for the head boys basketball position, and coach DeGrazia (emerged) from a highly competitive process as the clear choice for our interview committee. Coach DeGrazia is a true student of the game, and utilizes a growth mindset to support his players' personal, academic, and athletic development."

Said DeGrazia, "I'm very excited. I'm fired up to get started."

Since he teaches right next door to the high school, DeGrazia comes in with some familiarity with the Knights, especially the incoming junior class.

"Some of them are former students," said DeGrazia, who teaches social studies and science.

Tijan Saine and Nolan Martin are two current Knights DeGrazia has worked with in the classroom.

"Those guys are really great. I had a really good experience teaching them," DeGrazia said. "I'm looking forward to coaching them."

Kamiak graduated only one senior from a team that advanced to the district playoffs. Typically, teams would be right in the middle of spring tournaments and leagues. But the COVID-19 pandemic obviously altered those plans.

DeGrazia said he's heard some organizers are hoping to reschedule for July.

But since DeGrazia already knows some of the Knights, he said that the potential loss of off-season activities might not be as difficult to overcome.

DeGrazia is just getting started to know the incoming six-member senior class.

"I haven't met too many of them yet," he said. "I'm starting to schedule Zoom meetings with them. I've heard they're great leaders and great players."

Prior to taking over at Bishop Blanchet, DeGrazia spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Redmond under Todd Rubin, who DeGrazia described as one of his coaching mentors. DeGrazia then was an assistant at Lake Washington for one year before taking over at Bishop Blanchet.

While some might think of coaching and teaching as separate endeavors, DeGrazia views them as a package deal.

"I'm a teacher/coach," he said. "I think they are one and the same."

The qualities of a good coach and teacher include the ability to communicate with kids and to provide opportunities for them to grow into leaders, DeGrazia said.

"I want kids to leave the program knowing they have lifelong relationships with their coaches and teammates," he added. "I want them to be leaders and to stand up for what they believe in. ... I want them to serve and influence other people."

DeGrazia's approach on the court depends on who shows up to play.

"I tend to base my style on the personnel," he said. "I think about the players we've got, what they can do and how they can be best utilized. ... I seek input from them – what their strengths are, what they think. Then I form an offensive and defensive game plan and system."

The year at Bishop Blanchet taught DeGrazia a lot about the logistical and organizational aspects of being a head coach.

"I won't have a learning curve with that," DeGrazia said.

DeGrazia, 28, can pinpoint the start of his interest in becoming a teacher and coach to the summer before his senior year at Edmonds-Woodway High School. He broke his pinkie on his right hand and wasn't able to play that summer with the Warriors. Rubin, then the head coach at Edmonds-Woodway, offered DeGrazia the opportunity to coach the incoming freshmen, even though as an 18-year-old he wasn't much older than his players.

"I found it to be really rewarding," DeGrazia said. "There was a lot of joy leading young people. I sought opportunities to serve and mentor youth."

 

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