The first time Richie Beard learned about Dublin Jerome High School, it had nothing to do with basketball.

“Before I was a coach, I used to work with a child with autism who was from Jerome,” Beard said. “After that experience, I knew that if there was ever an opportunity to teach at that school that I’d be interested in it.”

While Beard is hoping that a teaching job in the Dublin school district opens up for the next school year, he’s guaranteed to work with students at Jerome in at least one capacity as he recently was named boys basketball coach.

Beard coached Whetstone the past three seasons, compiling a 14-55 record. He takes over for Jamie Pearson, who stepped down in April after four seasons.

“I consider it one of the top programs in central Ohio, and that’s the immediate draw,” said Beard, a 2005 Sidney Fairlawn graduate who played for two seasons at Wilmington College. “It’s been a goal of mine to eventually get a head coaching job in the OCC because of the level of talent.”

Beard began his coaching career as an assistant at Whetstone and spent one year as an assistant at Linden-McKinley before serving as interim head coach at Whetstone in the 2014-15 season in place of coach Kevin Arway, who was battling a brain tumor. Arway died Dec. 8.

The interim tag was dropped before the start of the 2015-16 season, in which Whetstone went 6-17. The Braves finished 4-19 last season.

Beard, who also has coached at the AAU level for several years, takes over a Jerome program that went just 7-15 in 2012-13 but improved to 10-13 the next season in Pearson’s first year as coach.

The Celtics were a combined 64-13 over Pearson’s final three seasons, including 18-6 last winter when they earned a third consecutive OCC-Cardinal Division runner-up finish.

The Celtics had their first open gym under Beard on June 1 and currently are competing in a summer league at Thomas Worthington.

Beard resides in Clintonville with his wife, Maggie, and their two sons, Jacoby, 3, and Maddox, 1. He was a teacher at Groveport Middle School North this school year.

Jerome lost four seniors from last season, including its leading scorer in Zach Watson, who averaged 16 points. Among the players expected to return are juniors Eddie Anders (guard), Andrew Golda (forward) and Lucas House (guard/wing player).

Last season, House averaged 10 points and Anders and Golda averaged 8.5 and eight points, respectively.

“(I’m) really excited for coach Beard to be the new coach,” Golda said. “I’ve known coach Beard for two years as he has been (my) and Lucas House’s AAU coach. He’s a great young coach that really knows what he’s doing, and he hates to lose. He wants to push the ball in transition and get out and run. He values ball movement and getting after it on defense. Everyone is really looking forward to getting things started, and he’s definitely the man to continue the success of the program.”

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek