Ciaran Lesikar has a lot to do.
“For me, it's just now going through all the preseason planning week by week, structuring around the games, when am I going to get the different skills in?” he said. “Building out our playbooks — the whole nine yards. Getting signs printed. Lot of scheduling issues.”
Most basketball coaches have months of time to map out everything they need for the winter season — Lesikar had just six weeks.
The Howard County native was named the new girls’ basketball coach at Indian Creek last month, following the departure of former Eagles athletic director Jamie Cook, who also coached girls’ hoops in the winter.
A two-year starter at Centennial before graduating in 1984, Lesikar played basketball for four years at Clarion University. He brings a winning record in 10 years coaching at Glenelg (175-74), leading the Gladiators to two Class 1A championships (1999 and 2001) before stepping down in 2006.
Lesikar recognizes it’s a conspicuously large gap between the time he last coached to today. But there’s a reason for it.
But when Lesikar left Glenelg, he left teaching.
“I was in Howard County, and they give a lot of preference to teachers — which, I am in full support of — and I was transitioning into new career opportunities,” he said. “I went back to school to get my master's degree. There was no way I'd be able to get my master's in the evenings while working and coaching.”
Lesikar shifted into his life as the owner of a kayaking company, then into a staffing and recruiting agency. As life does, it moved on.
He had a daughter, Kaya, and a job. He didn’t really leave coaching, though, serving as Cape St. Claire Basketball commissioner and conducting dozens of basketball clinics and camps. That’s where parents of children at Indian Creek got to know him.
When the spot opened up, those parents reached out to the new athletic director, Tyler Larkin.
“The job was posted on several sites. However, in a small community like we have, knowing there's an opening, people come to your door in different ways,” Larkin said.
Lesikar “threw in his hat,” but with the stipulation that the process wouldn’t wait. There just wasn’t time, and he needed to get started.
It was an easy decision for Larkin.
“He's all about hard work, dedication,” the athletic director said. “Winning is essential, but not the number one goal. He wants to get these young ladies to grow as student-athletes, really.”
Though Lesikar had wanted to move back into high school coaching, he had made a pact with himself.
He wanted to be a good father first.
“I had always assumed I'd probably get back into coaching once [Kaya] left high school. I would have wanted to be at all her games,” Lesikar said. “This was what kind of sped up the timeline. This way, it could be best of both worlds.”
Kaya played basketball at Broadneck as a freshman before transferring to Indian Creek. Father and daughter were coach and athlete from the time Kaya was 5-years-old, but Lesikar hadn’t coached at Broadneck. With her in the mix for the winter season, Lesikar laid a condition on her before going out for the job.
“That was one of the holdups for me applying,” he said. “I told her, 'Look. You want me to do this, you need to tell me you want that.' She knows, she knows how I am. We've been through this for 10 years.”
She gave him her blessing.
The Eagles wrestle with size issues, not skill. Indian Creek has been players in the IAAM postseason for the past five years, including winning the title in 2017. Last season, the Eagles it as far as the semifinals.
But size is a problem Lesikar’s dealt with before, with sterling results.
He earned his first Coach of the Year nod from the Baltimore Sun in his inaugural season with Glenelg in 1997 after directing a patchwork team of seven returners and a handful of junior varsity call-ups to a 13-12 record and the playoffs.
Lesikar wanted to hit the ground running and invited all prospective athletes out for a meeting. Twenty-one people came.
“If all 21 decide to play, that's enough numbers for us to have two teams,” the coach said. “But I know that's not usually the case.”
One of Lesikar’s goals is to field a junior varsity team this season, and nearly two dozen players would be enough to swing it. But if there’s only, say, 15 willing players, there would suddenly be too many for the average varsity squad.
“Everyone's going to come and work hard but you want the opportunity to play folks,” he said.
With the talent he knows he has, he plans to carry the same aggressive style he coached the Gladiators with.
“I'm definitely not the type of coach who'd just sit back and try to react,” he said. “From what I've read and talking to the kids, they all enjoy playing defense, which is great. I always say, defense and rebounding are two of those things you can always bring to the table no matter what.”
Lesikar’s days are filled with organizing schedules, ordering equipment, getting signs printed, making practices designed to bettering different skills and building out a playbook. And even with Troy Evans, the Indian Creek Grades 1-8 athletic director, on the sidelines, he still needs another assistant coach or two.
This is, still, with a full-time job outside of the school.
But with all of that, one of the greatest challenges Lesikar is up against is Kaya, and the perceptions other may have about potential favoritism.
“I've always made it very clear, in practice and AAU, you've got to make it really evident to your teammates that you should be in there,” he said.
If it’s too close to call between Kaya and another player to start, for instance, he’ll choose the other player.
“I've always been like that. My wife has come to me and had that parent talk about playing time, the same as other parents of players I've had. 'Can you talk to me about what Kaya needs to do to get more playing time?' ” Lesikar said, laughing.
Lesikar was “obsessive” as the Gladiators’ coach over a decade ago. He pushed in practice, weight room, even yoga. And while he plans to incorporate a lot of that into the way he directs the Eagles, the biggest lesson he’s carrying into coaching Indian Creek didn’t come from Glenelg at all.
“Seeing my kid come home and being upset,” he said. “When you're 25, 26, it's like, kid cries in practice, you're like, 'Whatever, we'll practice. Come back tomorrow.'
“Now, as a parent, I see it completely differently.”