New Middletown Christian coach answers ‘calling’

Jason Crider knew he would get the inkling to be a head coach again but wasn’t expecting the ideal situation to pop up so soon.

The former Preble Shawnee High School boys basketball coach spent last season as a varsity assistant at Bellbrook, where he had accepted a teaching position, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity when Middletown Christian School came calling.

Crider, 34, has been named the Eagles’ new varsity head coach, replacing Eric Gwinn, who decided to step down from coaching but will remain at the school as assistant athletic director. The first team meeting with Crider in charge is 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the school cafeteria.

“First and foremost, it’s a Christian school, and I always thought it would be nice to coach in a Christian atmosphere,” Crider said. “I got to know Eric Gwinn over the last few years and we’d been talking through it.

“I knew I would be itching to be a head coach again, but I thought I would be an assistant a little longer. When I saw the posting, I felt it was my calling to apply there and was excited when they offered me the job.”

Gwinn spent 10 seasons overall at the helm and guided MCS to its first sectional title during the 2015-16 season, but wanted to take a break from coaching after his wife recently had a baby, according to athletic director Bobby Childs.

The Eagles were 10-13 last year and 4-8 in the Metro Buckeye Conference.

“He still loves Middletown Christian,” Childs said. “We’re grateful for his time as a coach and leading us to our first sectional championship in school history so we will miss him for sure.”

Childs is excited to bring in Crider as a replacement, though.

Crider was the varsity coach at Preble Shawnee from 2013-16, going 33-37 over three seasons after coaching the seventh-grade, freshman and junior varsity teams the three years before that and serving one year as freshman coach at National Trail.

This will be his eighth year overall, fourth as a varsity head coach and fifth at that level. He will remain at Bellbrook Middle School as a sixth-grade physical education teacher and intervention specialist.

“We liked his experience at some bigger schools, so he definitely brings some experience down to the Division IV level and we think that will translate pretty good,” Childs said. “He brings a lot of excitement and passion, and he’s been described as one of the best young coaches in the area by several coaches who are very well-respected.”

One thing that set Crider apart from some of the other strong candidates was his plan to build the Eagles’ program up from the youth level on up. Childs said Crider had a clear idea how to get the elementary and junior high players learning the same system the varsity squad is running so they are more comfortable with it by the time they get to high school.

Crider has only seen the team play once this summer, so he’s still not sure what he will be working with in terms of Xs and Os and talent, but hopes to have a better idea after camp next week. He plans to run a “read and react” offense that can be adapted through a dribble-drive or motion offense, depending on what fits the players best.

“After camp, we’ll install the skeleton of our schemes and hopefully lay a foundation for a successful season,” Crider said. “I hear they are young so we will see how quickly we can get the younger guys up to par, but I like the read and react offense because it’s a system that can adapt to the players once I see the team kind of taking shape. I’m excited to get started.”