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Grant Spaite wanted to be a teacher long before he wanted to be a coach.
Teaching is what took him from head coaching in the Youngstown area to assisting Jeff Brink at Hudson.
"He's a teacher first. He's an excellent teacher," said Brink, who also had Spaite assist him at New Middletown Springfield. "Not only was he meticulous about his preparation as a coach, but that was something that was very evident in the classroom."
Not every head coach can handle being an assistant once more. Spaite was never that way.
"Coach Spaite has been willing to do whatever is necessary to be successful," Brink said. "It's not an ego trip, in terms of he has to have accolades or attention to be successful, which I think is what makes him a successful coach. It's about teaching the kids and being involved in the program in whatever capacity makes the program successful."
Now, Spaite will get the best of both worlds, continuing to enjoy a "great opportunity" to teach at Hudson while running his own program at Field, where he will replace Craig Nettleton, who has moved on to be the principal at Southeast High School, as head coach of the Falcons' girls basketball team. It's his first head coaching job since 2010-2011 at Columbiana, after which he assisted Brink at Hudson for several years.
"It's definitely different moving over that one seat," Spaite said. "It's a big difference. Everything falls on your shoulders."
One could say the same about the classroom, which Spaite dreamed of since his own days as a student. He said he was inspired by "a couple of really good history teachers" back at Columbiana.
"I decided my sophomore year of high school that I wanted to teach," Spaite said. "Coaching kind of came along as well."
And it came quick. His coach at Columbiana, Eric Whitmer, asked the then-senior if he would ever consider coaching. Spaite answered in the affirmative, and that very next year, he was helping coach seventh graders at Columbiana.
For more than two decades, coaching and teaching went hand-in-hand, including an 82-48 record as Springfield's head boys basketball coach from 2003 through 2009. Last year was the lone exception. Busy teaching at Hudson and working with seventh-grade basketball players, including his elder daughter, at Southeast, Spaite stepped away from coaching high school basketball for the first time in a long time.
"I missed it," Spaite said.
Now, he's back, in a familiar situation, taking over a deeply successful program in Brimfield.
At Springfield, his predecessor, Brink, posted a 94-19 record, including a 22-2 mark and regional appearance in his final season.
At Field, he'll inherit a team with a long record of success. Last year, the young Falcons, including two freshmen starters in Brooklyn Ross and Maria Sziva, went 13-11 with a 6-8 Metro mark.
Aside from his work with Southeast middle-schoolers, Spaite has never coached girls, but he said that he spoke with Whitmer, and Whitmer told his former player how much he loved coaching girls. Spaite, the longtime teacher, said it would be no different than taking on a new course.
"I know it's a little different with coaching and the teaching aspect, but it's not like I've taught at an all-boys school," Spaite said. "It's a different subject. Really, you're still instructing, teaching new content and new things."
Spaite also has no Portage Trail Conference experience, aside from his work with Pirates middle schoolers, meaning he has homework to do.
"I'll have to get up to speed pretty quick," Spaite said. "Lots of film study and we'll do our due diligence in terms of scouting."
That should be no problem for Spaite, with Brink noting that he felt comfortable sending any task in Spaite's direction, knowing he was industrious enough to see it through.
"Grant has been one of the best assistant coaches I've had," Brink said. "Some assistants are great from 3:30 to 5:30, but they don't understand what goes with the job, at home and in the offseason and with planning. I think Grant has a great understanding of that."