Lakeview did not have to look too far for its next boys’ basketball coach.
The Sailors announced this past week that they had hired JV coach Garrett Blaschak to replace Gary Burke as their boys basketball coach after Burke announced his resignation after 18 years on the bench earlier this year.
“I’m thankful that the administration and the board had the confidence in me and this isn’t something that I take lightly,” said Blaschak, who is a gym teacher at Lakeview’s Oakview Elementary school. “I’m thankful to have coached under Gary these past two years and I look forward to continuing the tradition that he built here at Lakeview over the past 20 years.
“I’ve had conversations with Gary and he wanted me to be the next guy in line. It’s an honor that he trusted me enough to take over for him. For him to say something like that after all that he’s done over the past 20 years at Lakeview meant a lot to me. That kind of made the decision for me.”
Despite his relative youth – Blaschak is 25 – he has been around the block and has learned from some of the bigger names in Mercer County basketball prior to assuming the reigns from Burke, who wanted to spend more time with his family before his children graduated from Lakeview over the next 3 years.
The new Lakeview coach is also the son of Reynolds girls’ basketball coach Matt Blaschak.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with some great coaches,” Garrett Blaschak said. “When I played at Greenville, I played for Mark Batt and I learned a lot just by playing under him. I had the opportunity to work with Dan Kilgore at Reynolds when I ran his junior high program. I worked with Jeff Hanley when he got the girls’ job at Reynolds. My dad Matt Blaschak has always been involved in coaching and that kind of got me into coaching. All of them have helped shaped my coaching philosophy to the point where I’m ready to run my program. They’ve already reached out to me to help if I needed them.
“I’m planning to bring my dad in to be my assistant coach, so being able to bounce ideas off him will be beneficial. Gary is going to still be involved at the elementary level and he said he’d help with whatever I need.”
Having his dad sitting next to him next on the bench next winter is something the younger Blaschak is looking forward to.
“It’s always been a dream of ours,” Garrett said. “I’m kind of following in his footsteps and we’ve had conversations over the years that if the opportunity ever came up that we’d be the other’s assistant, so it is a dream come true to do this. Now that it’s happening, it’s pretty cool.”
Replacing a coach that ranks 10th in county annals with a 257-180 ledger is not lost on the 2011 Greenville High and 2015 Slippery Rock University graduate.
“I have big shoes to fill, but having Gary’s trust is a big thing,” Blaschak said.
“I was blessed to get a teaching position three years ago and get to coach under him these past two years. I’ve learned a lot about basketball from him.”
Blaschak has no major renovation plans for Sailors basketball but is anticipating making tweaks here and there as needed.
“I’m going to keep the same offensive philosophy,” Blaschak said. “The kids are used to it and they’re comfortable in it. I plan on keeping that core system, but I want to tweak it to make it my own.
“The past few years, we’ve used mixed some motion in with some offensive sets. Coach Burke had confidence in the guys on the floor to make the right decisions and I’m not going to shy away from that.
“I have no plans on tearing down what’s already been built and build my own culture per say. I’m going to keep it relatively the same.”
The returning Sailors have greeted Blaschak’s ascension to the lead chair with a lot of excitement.
“From the feedback that I’ve gotten, they’re pretty excited,” he said. “As I transitioned from just an assistant coach to the JV coach, the kids started to trust me and they discovered what I knew about the game of basketball.
“I’ve heard nothing but positive comments and I’ve heard from a lot of them that they’re excited to get back in the gym to start our offseason work.”