Brett Ogata graduted from Mercer Island, played football there and spent 14 years coaching there — both as an assistant and the past eight years as the head coach. He’s spent almost his entire life on the island.
So why leave for Kent?
“Honestly, it’s a different challenge,” Ogata said. “I wanted a different challenge.”
Kentridge High School officially announced Friday that it had hired Ogata, who is the Chargers’ second football coach in 27 years, replacing the school’s all-time winningest coach Marty Osborn.
“We are very excited to have Brett take over the Charger program,” Kent School District athletic director Dave Lutes said. “He has experience, good organizational skills and I think he has the kind of personality that fits what we’re looking for.”
And expect some changes.
Ogata ran the spread offense at Mercer Island, coaching UW-bound quarterback Jeff Lindquist there. Before that he was the quarterbacks coach at Skyline, where he almost exclusively worked with Jake Heaps, who was the nation’s No. 1-ranked quarterback. He coached one year with Steve Gervais and one year with Mat Taylor.
So his influence is steeped in the spread. Kentridge had run the pistol wing-T under Osborn.
“I like what we do,” Ogata said. “But within that system we can adjust it. We can run our stuff and run the ball if we have to. I’m going to look at our personnel.”
Ogata led Mercer Island to the 3A district playoffs this year before losing to Bonney Lake. Kentridge was 0-10.
Ogata, who is Japanese-American, said Kentridge’s diversity also attracted him. More than 56 percent of the students are nonwhite — about 13 percent above the state average — while Mercer Island’s student population is 70.6 percent white, according to data from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
“I taught in California (at Lincoln High School in San Jose) before coming to Mercer Island and Kentridge is more like it was there,” Ogata said. “I like that diversity piece. I love having all the diversity and different cultures, and being a minority myself I think that helps and I had some experience with that as a player.”
Ogata played wide receiver, quarterback, cornerback and safety at Mercer Island before moving on to play at Santa Clara University.
Kentridge athletic director Eric Anderson said that what also attracted them about Ogata was his experience playing in the competitive 4A and 3A/2A KingCo.
A 4A or 3A KingCo school has played for the 4A or 3A state championship in the Tacoma Dome every year since 2000 (including 11 years since then when one of its schools has played in both title games).
The last time an NPSL school played for a state title was Kentwood in 2003 and the last time Kentridge reached the title game was in 1982, when it lost to Richland.
No NPSL school made it out of the district playoffs last year. And Kentridge’s last winning season came in 2009, when it went 6-4.
“He was successful in a highly competitive league coaching homegrown Mercer Island kids,” Anderson said. “The biggest thing – across the board in the NPSL – is we need to find ways to be up there competing with the Unions’ and Camas’ and Skylines’ and get the feeling of success we want to bring to our kids. It’s not just about winning games, but we want to turn this around.”
The next part will be what to do with Marty Osborn – who has coached Kentridge the past 26 years and was 138-123.
He resigned after the season, with the Chargers finishing 0-10. He had told his administration in 2015 that he would step down if the Chargers didn’t see success in 2016, so he kept his word.
But he expressed that he would like to stay on as an assistant coach if he can. He is still a teacher at Kentridge.
Lutes said they are leaving that decision to Ogata, who hadn’t yet met with Osborn or the rest of Kentridge’s inclumbent coaching staff and players.
“One of the first movements that Brett is going to undertake is putting the staff together,” Lutes said. “That issue will be his decision. If he sees a place for Marty, we’d love that. But it’s going to be his decision and we’ll support him.”
Ogata becomes the fifth coach in the South Sound this offseason to replace a coach who had been there for at least 20 years.
Osborn had been at Kentridge for 26 seasons. Sid Otton, the state’s all-time winningest coach, stepped down from Tumwater after 43 years and Bill Beattie took over for him after coaching at Olympia for 22 years. Olympia hired Steve Davis to replace Beattie.
George Fairhart left Eatonville after 24 years there to take over at Gig Harbor after coach Aaron Chantler stepped down. And Don Clegg retired from Wilson after 29 seasons there. Wilson (3A), South Kitsap (4A) and Eatonville (2A) remain the three known South Sound coaching jobs still available.
And this fills the second coaching vacancy in the Kent School District this offseason. Kent-Meridian hired Jeff Scott to replace Brett Allen, who had spent seven years there. Kentwood coach Mike Bush and Kentlake coach Brett Thompson each completed their second seasons coaching their schools.
So that makes 23-year Tahoma coach Tony Davis the most experienced coach in the 4A NPSL Cascade. The rest of the seven schools in the division have a combined 11 years of head-coaching experience at their schools (Tremain Mack has the second-most tenure with five years at Mount Rainier).
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677