Ottumwa High has decided to promote from within for its new boys basketball head coach.
The Ottumwa School Board Tuesday night approved the hiring of longtime OHS assistant coach Neil Hartz as varsity coach. Hartz has spent the past 18 seasons coaching in various capacities within the Bulldog program, most recently as the freshman head coach last season.
He takes over a varsity team that went 6-15 this last season, its only season under Ken Hutchinson. The season ended in turmoil, as Hutchinson was suspended for the final two games, then resigned after being accused of verbally abusing a student. Ottumwa hopes Hartz can bring some stability to the head coaching position, as he becomes the fourth person to hold the job in the past four years. Before Hutchinson, Kyle Creamer coached the 2017-2018 season. Creamer had taken over for Kevin Kanaskie, who coached for four years before resigning in 2017.
Hartz, of course, has seen a lot more turnover in nearly two decades with the Bulldogs. He was originally hired as a volunteer assistant in 2002 by Mike Holmes, and has served as an assistant to Holmes, Chris Gravert, Kanaskie, Creamer and Hutchinson. Hartz coached the Ottumwa freshmen to a winning record last season, after compiling a winning record the previous five seasons with the OHS sophomores. He was still a volunteer assistant when Ottumwa made its last state tournament appearance in 2004, and has persevered through seeing the varsity team suffer losing seasons in 11 of the past 12 years.
Hartz takes over a varsity squad that lost seven seniors to graduation, but returns an all-CIML Metro Conference player in junior Trae Swartz. OHS also brings back three other players who started games last year: senior Drake Handling, and juniors Joe Hammer and Kie Glosser.