Spring 2014
From Destiny to Design

From Destiny to Design

He came to Prep by chance, but his new reign as director of athletics is anything but accidental.

He came to Prep by chance, but his new reign as director of athletics is anything but accidental.

Garrett Ohara ’84 arrived at Flintridge Prep in the fall of 1980 as a 9th grader. It was happenstance, or perhaps fate, that led him to Flintridge, introduced to the school by a young basketball coach named Alex Rivera. Thirty-four years later, Ohara’s consistent hard work has led him to take a firm grasp of the future of the school’s athletics program, as he takes over the role of director of athletics from Rivera on July 1. Ohara will bring to the job a calm, effective style and a new vision for Prep athletics.

Ohara is not prescriptive. There’s no magic formula for a successful sports program. Instead, he will focus on developing relationships and providing the support coaches need to make tough decisions and prioritize their own needs. He will also focus on continuing to make the athletics department “a friendly environment where alumni feel they can come back any time. That’s important to me. It’s the relationships,” he says.

Headmaster Peter Bachmann agrees. “Garrett views athletics in the context of school mission and culture. He envisions an ongoing leveling of the lower and upper campus.”

From Destiny to Design

Ohara credits his predecessor and former basketball coach, Rivera, who was recently tapped for a new position, as founding director of athletic initiatives (Click here for more on Alex Rivera), for making relationships the center of the athletics department to this point. With solid footing, Ohara can set his own agenda.

Ohara’s focus on relationships is also rooted in his own memories as an athlete at Flintridge.

“We weren’t bad kids, but there was a mischievous sense about us back then,” he says. “We didn’t take ourselves very seriously. There was a playful side to us; we enjoyed pushing the edge of what was acceptable.”

Ohara pointed to his freshman year on the basketball team, when the team had a tournament at Buckley and he realized he had forgotten his shoes. Rather than fess up, he simply pilfered a pair from the locker room at Buckley, planning to return them later.

It wasn’t long before a Buckley player in socks walked up to the Prep bench with his coach, and Ohara realized the jig was up.

“Coach Rivera took me out of the game so I could take off the shoes, and I found another pair from a teammate,” he says. “I never forgot my shoes again.”

Nowadays, to remind athletes that it’s not always so serious, he has the team play half-court or do a silly shooting contest at the end of practice. It is these less-structured moments that often lead to the team chemistry Ohara is so famous for building.

Because in the end, Ohara says, he remembers only a few individual wins and losses when he looks back at his own high school career.

“I remember the people,” he says, adding that alumni often echo this sentiment. “They say, ‘Remember when we had so much fun on that trip?’ What keeps people coming back to Prep is the people. We’ve created an environment where alumni feel like this is a home, whether you’re back for a reunion or dropping by to say hi.”

As he settles into his new role, it’s clear that Ohara will help another generation find their homes in athletics and at Prep.

Physical Education Department Chair and Coach Sean Beattie says, “We all know that this will be a big change and challenge for Garrett, but he is up for both. He has a calm sense about him and will not let things get him rattled.”

Ohara attributes this sense of calm to his faith, which, along with his family (daughter, Kate (11), and wife, Susan), is his foundation. Consummately respectful, he’s not a yeller or a reactor; he’s a planner. Coaches reporting to him in the fall are likely to see Ohara lead in the same style.

Another center for Ohara is exercise. He remains a key member of the alumni basketball team on Alumni Sports Day and tries to take a run to focus before coaching games.

“I love anything outdoors,” he says. “I cycle several times a week, and I love to run on the horse trails over by JPL. I love taking Kate on little adventures, whether it’s camping or hiking. I also coach her basketball team.”

Ohara attended Westmont College, majoring in kinesiology, and Azusa Pacific University, where he earned a master’s in Education. He returned to Flintridge Prep as a member of the math faculty in 1999 and started coaching basketball in 2000. He was named assistant director of athletics in 2012. He will remain head coach of the boys Varsity basketball team, which this year won its 12th Prep League title in the last 13 years.

— Nicole Haims Trevor ’91

Athletics Department Goals

As Ohara begins to see his vision take shape, he wants the program to be characterized by five prevailing principles: class, honor, integrity, excellence and sportsmanship. His areas of focus for the future hone in on the school’s commitment to building life-long relationships. He plans to: