As a Grove City resident who had his eye on a job closer to his home, James Stutzman stepped down as coach of the Washington Court House Miami Trace High School girls basketball team at the end of the 2011-12 season.
He believes he found a better fit earlier this month when he became the coach at Pickerington Central.
During his tenure at Miami Trace, Stutzman’s teams won three district championships and were a district runner-up four times. Last season, Miami Trace was the top seed for the Southeast District tournament and lost to Vincent Warren 49-39 in a final.
“I live in Grove City and I was commuting down to Miami Trace,” Stutzman said. “My wife lived on the east side of Columbus before we got married. I was looking to get a coaching job on the east side of Columbus and Pickerington’s got a great tradition in girls basketball.”
Stutzman, who is a 1983 Berlin Hiland graduate, also previously coached at Marietta College, Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, Mass., and Goshen (Ind.) College. He said his record at Miami Trace was 179-30.
Stutzman replaces Angelita Forte, who coached the Tigers to a 7-14 record in her only season last winter. Central went 6-8 in the OCC-Ohio Division to place fifth behind Reynoldsburg (14-0), Pickerington North (12-2), Gahanna (9-5) and Newark (8-6) and ahead of Lancaster (5-9), Grove City (2-12) and Groveport (0-14). The Tigers lost to eighth-seeded Central Crossing 30-25 in a first-round Division I district tournament game.
During the previous three seasons under Wade Brockwell, the Tigers went 46-24 and won a district title in 2008-09.
“I’m very excited,” said Stutzman, who is planning to be a substitute teacher at Central. “With the tradition at Central, hopefully we can build some of the talent and get some of the crowds going again.”