Sunday, February 25, 2024

Brittany Zele named head coach at Kirtland

After guiding Andrews-Osborne Academy’s girls’ basketball team to a district runner-up finish in Division IV last winter, Brittany Zele will move up a division in her new job as the head coach at Kirtland.

Kirtland’s Board of Education approved Zele’s contract at its meeting on Monday. She replaces Bob Bell, who guided the Hornets for the previous 18 years.

“I am very excited to be part of the Kirtland community,” Zele said. “Everyone I’ve talked to has been extremely nice, helpful, and supportive. I’m already planning our summer schedule and talking with coaches to coordinate, so my hope is to have everything finalized by the end of the week so I can start workouts next week.”

In two full seasons at Andrews, Zele led the Phoenix to a 36-8 record, two Lake Effect Conference championships and the district runner-up finish. She was named LEC Coach of the Year in both seasons.

She plans to use her recipe for success to help the Kirtland program grow.

“You will definitely see my imprint on the program,” she said. “I like to teach the game rather than the plays, so we will be primarily a motion offense with a few set plays. I think this method not only increases the girls’ basketball IQ, but it makes the game more fun. You find a lot more teachable moments with this. On the other end, you will see an aggressive man defense. I have some junk defenses that will be played against the right opponent, but for the most part, you will be seeing man.”

A graduate of Geneva High School where she was a two-year starter for Nancy Barbo, Zele earned first team all-conference and all-county honors and was an Ashtabula County Player of the Year nominee.

She went on to start two years at Lake Erie College before an ACL injury and concussion hobbled her during her final two seasons.

Zele hopes to inspire future Hornets the same way Barbo had inspired her.

“Growing up, I knew I wanted to play for Nancy Barbo,” Zele said. “She was able to get me excited at a young age and develop that drive. That’s what I plan to do at Kirtland. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see me with the youth program a lot of the time or having them involved in our games in some capacity. I have a lot of ideas for them this year.”

She also has plenty of ideas for the high school Hornets.

“Short term goals are something I plan on talking to the girls about tomorrow when we meet,” she said. “I think if we can create that as a team, accountability will be ingrained and motivation heightened.”

Zele’s long term goals include reaching those youngsters at an early age and developing a winning attitude on and off the court.

“It’s not enough to have the skill; they have to understand the game,” Zele said. “That’s where the youth program comes into play and I think these girls will have a great time learning and playing under my direction. I would also like to lead the team to a district championship one day, but that is something that is secondary to what I ultimately would like to see with our younger girls.”

Steve Hare
Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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