Novi boys basketball coach changes jobs after leading Wildcats to state semifinals
By Steve Stein
A little more than two months after guiding the Novi High School boys basketball team on a remarkable journey to its first appearance in the MHSAA state semifinals, Coach Brandon Sinawi was no longer in charge of the Wildcats.
In late May, he stepped down as Novi coach and was named the coach at nearby Novi Detroit Catholic Central High School.
Applying for the Catholic Central job was an easy decision for Sinawi. Accepting the job required some introspection.
“Someone once said doing the right thing can be the hardest thing,” Sinawi said. “I had some sleepless nights thinking about it, but I feel I did the right thing for myself, my wife and our family taking the Catholic Central position.”
Sinawi said he’s always held Catholic Central in high regard and he hoped someday he’d have an opportunity to coach there.
“Being a Catholic school also is a big deal to me because of my faith,” he said. “I can reach players on a different level there than I can at a public school. I feel comfortable there.”
Sinawi, 37, is only the sixth coach in the Catholic Central basketball team’s storied history, which dates to 1928.
“I’m up for the challenge,” he said. “I know what I’m getting into. It will be an honor to coach on a court named for Coach Holowicki.”
Bernie Holowicki, who coached Catholic Central from 1971-1994 and was inducted into the Detroit Catholic League Hall of Fame in 1980, died in June at age 86. The court at Catholic Central was named in his honor in January.
Sinawi was selected for the Catholic Central job by a committee that included Athletic Director Aaron Babiarz. Five finalists were interviewed from an original field of more than 25 applicants.
Babiarz said an awareness of the history of Catholic Central’s basketball program played a role in the committee’s decision.
“We weren’t looking for someone who would be at our school for four or five years,” Babiarz said. “We wanted someone who wanted to be here for at least 20 years.”
Sinawi will remain a health and physical education teacher at Novi Middle School, a job he’s held for six years. No teaching position was open at Catholic Central.
Being able to keep a teaching job he loves at a school located about a quarter-mile from the Catholic Central campus was a factor in Sinawi’s decision to accept the Catholic Central coaching offer.
“I’m a teacher first,” he said. “That’s my passion.”
Babiarz said the fact that Sinawi is happy teaching at Novi Middle School was a “big deal” in the decision to hire him.
While Sinawi loves his teaching job and students and remains a huge fan of Novi High School athletics, he said coaching Novi boys basketball had its frustrations.
“It’s important that everyone is on the same page at all three levels of a boys basketball program,” he said. “I’ll have that at Catholic Central.”
Sinawi’s sudden departure as coach hasn’t been universally accepted in the Novi community.
“I can’t control some people’s perceptions of why I left and their negative comments,” he said. “The majority of people I know have been supportive of my decision.”
Novi School District Athletic Director Brian Gordon told hometownlife.com that Sinawi “certainly worked extremely hard, and, for that, we thank him. We also thank him for everything he’s done for the kids here in Novi and wish him the best of luck as he embarks on a new endeavor at Catholic Central.”
Babiarz said the selection committee at Catholic Central was impressed with Sinawi’s love for basketball.
“That’s why Brandon coaches with passion and while he loves his players, he holds them accountable,” he said. “His guys play with passion, and they play hard. If you do that, the wins will come. Brandon understands that high school sports are about the kids. This is their time.”
Sinawi orchestrated a rapid revival of Novi’s boys basketball program, which went 4-17 in the season before he arrived.
He went 63-33 in four seasons in charge of the Wildcats. In his final three years, his team won three district championships, made it to the regional finals twice and the state semifinals.
Novi won the first regional title in team history in March when the Wildcats defeated previously unbeaten Ann Arbor Skyline.
Three of Novi’s six postseason wins en route to the state semifinals were by just two points, and all three nail-biting victories were achieved by a buzzer-beating shot.
Sinawi is replacing Bill Dyer, who resigned in April after being Catholic Central’s coach for 12 years and posting a 141-110 record, including 12-9 last year.
This isn’t the first time Sinawi has crossed coaching paths with Dyer.
Sinawi was on Dyer’s staff at Livonia Stevenson High School and he was Stevenson’s coach for four years (2010-2014) after Dyer had departed. Sinawi’s career coaching record is 93-56.
Chris Housey was hired last month as Novi’s new coach, replacing Sinawi.
Housey spent the last two seasons as coach at Grosse Pointe University-Liggett High School. He’s inherited a sizeable rebuilding job at Novi. Seven of the Wildcats’ eight players from last year graduated and the eighth player has transferred to Detroit Renaissance.
Catholic Central lost four players to graduation and several key players are back.
Sinawi graduated from Farmington Hills Harrison High School in 1999. He was on the boys basketball team there for two years.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and health from Eastern Michigan University in 2009 and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Michigan-Dearborn in 2015.
He and his wife Suzanne celebrated their 10th anniversary May 24. They have identical 6-year-old twin sons Jackson and Jude.