Mark Schweitzer remembers Ozark as the area high school basketball team everyone wanted to beat when he was at Reeds Spring.
Now, after five years without a district championship, Schweitzer is tasked with returning the Tigers back into the region’s elite.
Schweitzer, 31, was named as Steve Hunter’s successor Monday after assisting the legendary coach for six seasons.
“I know what this job is, to the area and to the state. Even before Steve, this has been a coveted job,” Schweitzer said. “I’m just extremely blessed to be given this opportunity. I’m pretty proud and humbled for Ozark to be putting the faith in me.
“What better job can someone ask for their first head coaching job?”
Hunter stepped down last month after 14 seasons with the Tigers and 28 years as a head coach, but will remain the school’s assistant principal. Hunter won more than 500 games in his career and a state title with Ozark.
However, Hunter had his first losing season with the Tigers in 2011-12, and then went 16-12 last year.
Ozark will return three starters, but loses top players Jakob Neidig and Brett Krisik. A rising junior class that had a strong junior varsity season last year should contribute right away, Schweitzer said.
Schweitzer was an all-state player at Reeds Spring, graduating in 2000 after leading the Wolves to a third-place finish at state. He then had a standout career at College of the Ozarks, graduating in 2005 as the school’s seventh all-time leading scorer.
“He’s got a real keen insight and has a good eye for detail,” Hunter said. “I’m happy for him. I think he’s being given a great opportunity with our program, and I think he understands he’s got big shoes to fill. Not because they’re my shoes, but because of the success we’ve had.”
Schweitzer spent one year as an assistant at Hollister before coming to Ozark.
“We’ve got work to do, and we want to keep Ozark in that discussion of teams to beat in the area, and even more,” Schweitzer said. “I believe that if I do the job I think I can do, we’ll be hopefully staying where we’re at in that group.”
Ozark recently hired Terry Jamieson from the Cassville district to replace Mark Caballero as athletic director next year. Ozark’s girls basketball coaching position is also vacant, as Yancey Little resigned last month.