Boys basketball: Centella hire makes sense for Grayslake Central
Long before his high school alma mater named him its new head boys basketball coach, Brian Centella envisioned it.
Once a star basketball player for Grayslake Community, the 32-year-old was named Kosta Kougias' successor at Grayslake Central this month.
"I wasn't necessarily looking (for a head-coaching position)," said Centella, who served as an assistant coach the last five seasons under Kougias, who resigned following last season to spend more time with his young family. "When I came back to Grayslake, it always felt like where I wanted to be. For such a long time, dating all the way back to high school, I knew that teaching and coaching is what I wanted to do. Any time I would picture myself as the head coach, for whatever reason, I pictured myself here at Grayslake."
The name Centella has become almost synonymous with Grayslake. All three children of David and Patti Centella graduated from GC, where they all excelled in sports, and all three are now professionals working in education. Oldest child Jimmy is the Rams' head boys and girls cross country coach and teaches Spanish at the high school. Brian, the middle child and a 2005 graduate, teaches Life Fitness in the building, and Colleen is a teacher in Franklin Park.
Patti Centella, a former teacher herself, still lives in the same house her kids grew up in. Her husband passed away 11 years ago from cancer. Patti keeps busy with three young grandchildren. Brian and his wife, the former Anna Snyder, who was a softball star for Grayslake and Aurora University, have a daughter, Brooklyn, who turned 1 in April.
"I'm so excited," Centella said of taking over as head coach of a Rams team that went 16-14 last season. "I feel really fortunate for the school, the administration, (athletic director) Brian Moe, Principal (Dan) Landry to give me this opportunity. It's definitely like going full circle for me as a former player here and as someone who grew up in Grayslake and now lives in Grayslake. I love the community. I love the kids. It's a special place."
Centella was a three-year varsity player for the Rams and Daily Herald All-Area selection as a senior. He then had a special career at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, as well. He twice helped the Duhawks win their conference tournament to earn a berth in the NCAA Division III tournament each year. A 1,000-point scorer in his four seasons, he earned all-conference and all-region honors.
Moe became Grayslake Central's boys basketball coach after Centella graduated but says his new hire kept getting better at the game after college.
"He's a basketball junkie," Moe said. "I think he peaked at probably 27, 28. He'll go in the gym and shoot during his lunch sometimes, and he'll go 10 minutes without missing a shot."
Centella got a kick out of hearing that from his AD.
"I definitely improved a ton in college and then I kept playing quite a bit," Centella said. "I just loved the game as a player and now as a coach. I don't play quite as much as I would like, but I'm busier with work and I have a daughter and a wife."
Centella had teaching stops in Brookfield, Wis., and Chicago before coming to Grayslake Central. He has spent all five years coaching under Kougias, who has been a mentor to him.
"He's such a great guy," Centella said. "He's somebody in the coaching community who is so well-respected because of the way he treats referees, opposing coaches, people in our building. I can't say enough about him as someone who is in coaching for all the right reasons."