By Kyle LoJacono
Wiregrass Ranch athletic director Dave Wilson announced the selection of two new coaches, John Gant with the girls basketball team and Mike Horrigan with the boys golf team.
John is the father of John Michael Gant, who was the Bulls No. 1 starting pitcher the last two years. His daughter was a junior varsity basketball player last year.
John was a shooting guard in high school for a state-champion team in Georgia. He also coached AAU ball for 10 years.
“Since moving to Florida I have always stayed involved in coaching with my kids who are all athletic, starting with John Michael in baseball,” John said. “To this day when I enter a gym, I still get excited about the game and my palms get moist with anticipation. I realized that I still have a deep passion for the game. I still want to teach the game to young people.”
John replaces Greg Finkel, who had been the only girls basketball coach in Wiregrass Ranch’s five-year history.
Finkel resigned in July after the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) indicated he and his program committed 10 violations involving illegal recruitment of a player. Finkel remains at the school as a driver’s education teacher.
Wiregrass Ranch was eventually fined $6,275. Additionally, the Bulls’ athletic program was placed on one year of probation, while the girls basketball program received two years probation.
“John has been around the athletic program because of his kids the last few years and we’re all very confident he can help lead the program into the future,” Wilson said. “It’s been a really rough summer, and we think he’s the person to take over our winning program.”
The Bulls went 14-12 last season, missing out on the playoffs for the first time in the last three years.
Horrigan, a science teacher, is also no stranger to Bulls athletics, as his son Logan is a member of the boys golf team. Logan, who helped Wiregrass Ranch win a conference and district title last year, is projected as the squad’s No. 1 golfer.
The Bulls lost several of their top-five golfers to graduation last year, including the reigning Class 2-District 6 individual champion Dylan Larson.
“It’ll probably be a bit of a rebuilding year, but there are still some really good golfers,” Wilson said.
Horrigan replaces Nick Cuviello, who was also the only coach in program history.
“He just started a family and he didn’t want his baby and coaching to affect his teaching,” Wilson said. “He teaches AP classes and he’s one of the best teachers we have in my opinion.”
Additionally, Tanner Schmitz was named the girls swimming coach. Schmitz led the boys swimming program last year, but took over the duties for the girls team when Leah Zachewicz was relieved from the post after being charged with driving with a suspended license.
Wiregrass Ranch still needs to fill a vacancy for the leader of the girls golf program after Amanda Devona resigned as a teacher and coach on Aug. 8.
“The good thing is most of our coaches are back,” Wilson said. “Consistency is big in high school sports.”