O’Brien is in charge of the girls’ basketball center at Central DeWitt

Ron O’Brien is back in the game.

After more than five years leading the girls’ basketball program at North Davenport High School, O’Brien holds the same position at Central DeWitt.

O’Brien steps in in place of Justin Shilts, who recently quit after one season for personal reasons.

“I’ve been itching to come back in the last couple of years,” O’Brien said. “It’s kind of late in the year and close to the season, but I think it’s a good program and a great learning area.”

The Sabers introduced the Class 4A state championship a year ago.

Despite graduating players from all states in Allie Meadows and Taylor Veach, Central DeWitt brought back three players that saw key minutes in Lauren Walker, EmmaGrace Hartman and Reagan Hofer from a 19-win lineup.

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The situation is much better than what O’Brien inherited in the North. The Wildcats were winless in their first season before eventually leading them to a pair of the Mississippi Athletic Conference and the school’s first trip to the state championship.

“There’s a good base there,” O’Brien said. “When I started up north that first year, we really started from the bottom. It’s not like that out there.”

O’Brien received recent word about Schiltz’s departure and followed up with Cypress Activities Director Jared Burt.

“We had a nice meeting,” O’Brien said. “I wasn’t necessarily directly looking for a job this time of year, but it caught my interest. I thought, ‘What the heck.’ It gives me something to do in the winter.”

O’Brien plans to meet his team for the first time on Sunday at the team’s open gym. Training officially begins for the 2022-23 season November 7.

“I’ve watched them quite a bit, but I don’t know much at the moment,” O’Brien said. “They have had some change in training and I know they are looking for stability. They have a good youth program and some good youth classes. There are two pieces out there.”

Another interesting dynamic is O’Brien’s son Logan, who is an assistant coach on the Davenport West Girls program. The first meeting between the Hawks and the Sabers is December 15th.

O’Brien’s daughter, MacKenzie, a former player of him, coaches golf at Iowa City High.

“I couldn’t let them have all the coaching credits now,” O’Brien said. “It would be fun to go back to it.”

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