- February 18, 2016
OCOEE — It didn’t take long for the Ocoee Knights basketball program to announce the hiring of a new boys coach to replace Rob Gordon, who left recently to take the head job at Evans High School.
Ocoee Athletic Director Steve McHale announced June 5 the hiring of John “Sarge” Siers as the new head coach for the Knights.
Siers has a lengthy résumé that includes more than three decades of working at basketball camps in states such as South Dakota, Washington, Pennsylvania and California, as well as a few stops as a college coach, including as an assistant at Norfolk State.
At the high-school level, Siers has coached Billy Donovan’s son, Billy Jr., while he was at St. Francis Catholic in Gainesville, among many other jobs. He has worked recently in Sarasota at the Elev8 Academy and as a program director at West Oaks Academy.
Now, he said he is ready to plant roots in an area he loves and build a contender.
“I’ve traveled all over the world because of basketball; I’ve been very blessed,” Siers said. “I want this to be my last job. I think I can turn this into a state-championship program.”
McHale said Siers’ desire to stay at Ocoee for a while and build something helped set him apart.
“(He) and I are, in that sense, cut from the same cloth,” he said. “(Siers) just shined above the rest, and he just comes with experience — and that’s the direction we’re trying to go in our athletics programs, overall. Just the amount of exposure he can give to our kids at all levels.”
McHale also noted the extensive experience his new head coach will bring with him.
Siers said he is a big advocate of building a culture of community and developing talent. He plans to be involved with area youth players who are zoned for Ocoee High School, beyond his involvement with the players currently in his program, so he can be integral in developing the young talent. Additionally, he plans to get his players involved with the community, mentioning a possible program of his players reading to elementary-school children.
Siers, who has met Gordon before through basketball circles, said the outgoing coach left the program in great shape, and that helped to make the job so attractive.
“Ocoee is a great job,” Siers said. “Usually when you get jobs, they’re bad jobs, because a guy gets fired for not winning or not developing players. Rob has done a great job at Ocoee, and he went to his alma mater — you can’t blame him — and I want to continue (what he built).”
Siers expressed thanks to Eric Schwalbach, a longtime basketball coach in the area and a mutual friend, for leading the program in the interim while there was no coach and coordinating a summer schedule for the Knights.
Siers said virtually no one calls him John, instead opting for his longtime nickname, “Sarge.” The roots of that nickname go back 30 years, he said, to when he was at a camp and had a flattop and a mustache. When another coach told the kids he was Sergeant Slaughter, a popular pro wrestler at the time, they bought it.
“By the end of the week, I had 500 kids calling me ‘Sarge,’” Siers said. “And the rest, as they say, is history.”
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].