After four seasons at the helm of Columbia City boys basketball, Brett Eberly will not return as the Columbia City boys basketball coach next season according to an e-mail that was sent out this week by Khelli Leitch, athletic director at Columbia City.
Eberly confirmed the move to Outside the Huddle on Wednesday morning. He will be moving, pending board approval, to an assistant principal position at Warsaw High School.
“I think it was just time for me to do something different, a professional fresh start was needed for everybody,” Eberly said. “It is a really good job to start out your administrative career. I wasn’t going to take just any job. The pieces fell together and all of the sudden I had a decision to make. When doors open, you have to walk through them.”
Eberly was 42-56 in his four seasons as the head coach with Columbia City. He took over in 2016 after back to back Sectional titles in the previous seasons and had his best season that year at 13-14 overall. Eberly’s Eagles finished 10-13 in 2019-20 in the final season in Donald S. Weeks Gymnasium. Columbia City finished fourth in Northeast 8 this past season, led by the program’s all-time leading scorer Mitchell Wilson, an Outside the Huddle All-Area player.
“What Mitchell did for us and the senior group in general, they just never quit. A lot of stuff didn’t go their way,” Eberly said. “Those guys continued to come back for more, thrown into it early as sophomores and showed a tremendous amount of grit.”
The Eagles didn’t have the same success in the past four seasons as before Eberly took over, but even this last season saw a few possessions really being the difference in their record. 10 of the team’s 13 losses came within three or less possessions point wise.
“If things bounce a little bit differently, then all of the sudden people feel different about the season,” Eberly said. “In terms of of closing out the gym, it was a special time. We went through a stretch of the early 2000s where we didn’t lose there for consecutive years; to close out with a good win against Concordia was big for our program.”
Prior to becoming the Columbia City head coach, Eberly was 4-17 in 2007 in one season as the Caston head coach. He is 46-73 overall in his head coaching career. He was just the fourth coach at Columbia City in the past 25 seasons. Eberly has been part of the Eagle community for most of that time, serving as an assistant coach for a long time before taking over for Chris Benedict four seasons ago.
Columbia City boasts one of the area’s most prestigious post season histories with 28 Sectional titles, dating back to 1926. Eberly says he enjoyed being part of that traditional and seeing the program build from the ground up, including the seasons with Brachen and Parker Hazen just before he took over as the head coach. The program, during Eberly’s 20 years involved, also added a lot to the coaching community with guys like Jonathan Fuelling, Dave Parker, Ethan Marsh and Jason Ridge all getting part of their start in the program, as did Eberly.
Eberly notes that when he started, the Eagles weren’t on the map and then won a Regional in 2001 and a semi state in 2004, building up the Columbia City program momentum.
“It is one of those deals where when we first started, it was this building process and every big game was like Christmas and you felt like you were unwrapping presents all the time because it was so new for everybody, for the community, for us as coaches,” Eberly said.
The success came through waves just before Eberly took over as head coach. That left him and his staff in a role where they had to focus on maintaining a strong level for the program during what will certainly be remembered as a Mitchell Wilson era.
“The more success you have, the harder it is to maintain that level. Maintenance isn’t nearly as fun as building,” Eberly said. “We worked our tail off to maintain where we wanted to be at. I don’t think people understand how hard it is to maintain that level at a school our size; things have to work out, players have to develop.”
The Eagles are set to return two of their six players who played in more than 20 games last season. Gregory Bolt averaged 7.3 points and a team high 6.5 rebounds in 2019-20 and will be a junior. Fellow junior to be Mason Baker averaged 5.8 points per game and was the team’s second most proficient three point shooter.
“There has been no bigger fan of Columbia City basketball than me. The final message has to be that I can’t wait to see what these guys do next,” Eberly said. “If they continue to work, there are big things ahead for Columbia City.”
Columbia City is set to play in a brand new gymnasium and a brand new school in the 2020-2021 season.