Richard Midgley, the former Modesto Christian High School basketball star who returned to his alma mater two seasons ago to take over the program, is leaving the school to pursue a scouting job with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.
Midgley will be replaced by assistant and former MC standout Brice Fantazia, the school announced Monday at a news conference in the gym foyer.
“It wasn’t difficult to accept the position. I’m very excited about the role,” said Midgley, who guided the Crusaders to back-to-back 30-win seasons (62-6), including two Sac-Joaquin Section championships and trips to the Northern California Regional final each year. “The hard bit for me was just thinking about the players I’ve worked with and how hard they’ve worked from April until now, and the improvement. We’re excited about the season and getting them ready, and then it’s like I’m kind of leaving them suddenly. That was the hard bit for me.
It’s kind of bittersweet. You hear the news and think, ‘Oh, that’s a real bummer for us.’ But at the same time, we’re real excited for a young coach to get a great opportunity.
Greg Pearce, Modesto Christian athletic director
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“But, as an opportunity, I felt this was something I couldn’t pass up.”
Midgley’s departure is a paradigm shift for Modesto Christian. After having just one coach – the ultra-successful Gary Porter – from 1996 to 2014, Fantazia will be the Crusaders’ third coach in four seasons.
Porter won a Sac-Joaquin Section-record 16 championships, two state titles and more than 500 games during his time at MC, with most of that success in Divisions IV and V.
Midgley, who was co-head coach during Porter’s final two seasons, actually managed to up the ante. His Crusaders played in the Division I Modesto Metro Conference, won section banners in Division I and Division II, and competed in the NorCal Open Division playoffs each year.
The pressure on Fantazia figures to be enormous.
62 Number of victories recorded by Modesto Christian’s boys basketball team in two seasons under Richard Midgley
“Obviously, following in Coach Porter’s footsteps and Coach Midgley’s footsteps, there are expectations,” said Fantazia, 31. “But I really feel like I’ve been groomed well, and coaching under Coach Midgley the last two years and playing for Coach Porter I think has definitely prepared me for this.”
Senior Darrian Grays, a guard on last season’s 32-2 squad that was denied a berth in the state final thanks to a 41-40 loss to De La Salle-Concord, believes the transition will be smooth.
“They have a lot of the same personality, a lot of similarities on the court,” said Grays, who averaged 7.3 points per game last season. “They’re not too much different.”
Midgley, who played at Cal and then in his native England after graduating from MC in 2002, was recommended for his new post by a former coach who has ties to the Hawks’ front office. He interviewed for the position Aug. 5 and was offered the job Aug. 10. He will be responsible for scouting collegiate conferences in the western United States.
“We weren’t expecting to hear the news,” MC athletic director Greg Pearce said. “It’s kind of bittersweet. You hear the news and think, ‘Oh, that’s a real bummer for us.’ But at the same time, we’re real excited for a young coach to get a great opportunity.”
Fantazia, a native of Turlock, played three seasons at Turlock High before transferring to MC during the 2003-04 season, where he helped the Crusaders win a state championship. He played collegiately at Culver-Stockton College in Missouri, where he was named an NAIA All-American, and professionally in Europe for four seasons.