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Bel Air boys basketball coach Alex Darko steps down; Brian Jagdman filling in: ‘It’s gonna be a process’

Brian Jagdman sat in the Bel Air boys basketball assistant coaching chair not two weeks ago. Now, more than a quarter way through the season, he’ll fill the Bobcats head coaching vacancy left by decadelong coach Alex Darko.

Darko informed his staff and players on Jan. 2 he’d be stepping down from his duties after taking on greater responsibility in his day job. Darko confirmed the coaching turnover but did not respond for further comment.

Jagdman and assistant coach Sean Simmons stood together outside the Bel Air locker room Thursday night after a 40-point loss to Edgewood, grappling with the abrupt change while explaining their shared vision for a hard reset.

Both coaches gave no hesitation that the change did come as a surprise. The Bobcats have been bereft of much practice time or shared space since the change, as a result of Harford County school closings as well as playing a pair of games (they split, 1-1).

“Whenever you lose someone that’s been here for so long, it’s tough because you have to fight that adversity,” Simmons said. “When a coach leaves, it’s now [our] team to try and form and set a new culture. Which is tough being a quarter-way through the season. It’s tough, that’s been the biggest thing.”

Jagdman didn’t mince his words about their right-the-ship goals.

“Start playing like a team,” he said. “Have better attitudes whether you’re playing or not. Support their brothers out on the court. Basic stuff. Better passing. Like I said, it’s basically just controlling their emotions and being able to play.”

Jagdman has five years of experience on Bel Air’s bench to go with 19 years of coaching experience at the middle school travel and AAU levels. He’s no stranger to the front chair. But he admitted some of the ancillary administrative duties have been a bit of a learning curve.

Simmons doubled down on the culture reset point.

“As a coaching staff, we mesh,” he said. “Getting the boys to mesh with us has been probably the hardest thing. And now that’s what we’re trying to do so next year we have a formula. This year, basically our goals would be to focus on the boys to lay the foundation.”

Jagdman hammered his ruling on respecting the game. In his two decades of coaching, he has never once been served a technical foul. “I refuse to give points to other teams, I won’t do it,” he said.

So if one of his players gets T’d up, they’ll sit the first quarter of the following game.

“I try to set a positive example for the boys,” Jagdman said. “You won’t hear me cussing and screaming and carrying on. I won’t let any of my coaches do that. And I don’t expect my players to. We don’t allow a lot of cursing and that kind of stuff.”

Simmons was adamant the team that fell by 40 on their home floor –– a Bel Air group that returned six players, added six more from last year’s junior varsity squad and filled in the rest with newbies –– “is not the team that we are.”

The Bobcats finished last season 10-10 under Darko. They’re now 5-6 after a win over Perryville on Friday.

At this stage of the coaching turnover, Jagdman and Simmons, speaking between a back-to-back stretch of their schedule, remind their team to cache any feelings about playing time but to give their best at every step along the rebuild inside Bel Air’s gym.

“It’s gonna be a process,” Simmons said. Jagdman cut in to add, “It’s not gonna happen overnight.”