J.D. Damrath stepped down as coach of the Olentangy Orange hockey team April 15 after guiding the Pioneers to a bounce-back season.
After two seasons, Damrath said it was time for the team to have a new voice.
“I have mixed emotions about it because we have had a heck of a run,” he said. “You fall in love with it, and you love the kids. Sometimes a different voice coming in can help a lot.
“I just felt you get to a point where maybe a different voice can help. From coaching over the years, you know when it’s time to switch up.”
The Pioneers went 35-26-0-2 in Damrath’s two seasons, including 22-12 overall this winter, losing to Olentangy Liberty 7-4 in a district semifinal.
Orange reached the 20-win mark for the first time since going 26-5-2-2 in 2014-15 and was trying to reach its first district final since 2014.
The Pioneers also earned their first CHC divisional title since 2014 by winning the White Division at 11-5 with 22 points. Olentangy Berlin (10-6) and Cincinnati Moeller (9-5-1-1) tied for second with 20 points each.
Orange finished 13-14-0-2 in 2018-19 for only its second losing season. It finished 2-12-0-1 in its inaugural 2008-09 season.
“They had a great year overall, and coach Damrath guided them to the White Division championship,” athletics director Brett Diehl said. “He was seeking new opportunities, and he wanted to make a change.”
Damrath replaced Tim Chugh after three seasons. A St. Louis native, Damrath played at Ohio State from 1980-83 and coached the Ohio State women’s club team from 2009-12. He also coached the Northville (Michigan) girls program from 2014-16.
“You don’t go through school with the same math teacher, and it’s the same with coaching,” Damrath said. “I hear people talk about kids these days, but these kids are great. I’m amazed with what some of these kids are going to do in college off the ice. It’s all good stuff. Hopefully they will get the right coach.”
Diehl said the search will begin soon.
“We’re living in a different world right now (with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic),” he said. “Hopefully we can get a coach as soon as possible.”