By Katie Kapusta, Spectrum News Cincinnati
For many high school basketball coaches, winning a state championship is the goal, but for Taft's head coach, DeMarco Bradley, he's in the hunt for his first state championship as a head coach this weekend. But he's won the big one twice — as a student manager and as an assistant coach.
Bradley sweeps the floor each day before practice; something he believes shows his players that no one is better than the other.
"It's just showing that everybody else that no one is too big, no one’s too big for the job," Bradley said. "Everybody carries their own weight."
Bradley said it's something he learned as student manager of the Woodward basketball team his junior and senior years after he was cut.
"You're probably going to make me tear up because talking about these guys right here, it's special," he said about the team from 1988.
His junior year, the team won state. A memory he holds dear.
"This is what I try to tell my guys about being true family," Bradley said. "I mean about being true family guys. This team right here was what team stands for — together, everyone achieves more. We still talk to this day."
But the next year, the team lost in the championship game
"I lost one," he said. "I won one. So I know how both situations look."
But Bradley said his experience as a student manager is what led him to coaching.
"This means everything to me," he said. "This is where it first began."
So, when he had the chance to be an assistant coach at Taft under Coach Mark Mitchell, he went for it.
"I want you to really be able to coach the game, teach the game and here we are," Mitchell said. "We just kind of grew together."
It led to the school's only state championship in 2011.
"You can't start off 2011 without talking about Coach Mitch," Bradley said. "You know, Mitch is a big brother. When I think of Mitch, you tear me up, because he taught me really how to be a winner."
Bradley said there was a huge difference between winning on a coaching staff versus as a student manager.
"Me being a coach, I actually helped put the game plan together and helped mastermind everything," he said.
Now for the first time as a head coach, Bradley has made it to the Final Four.
"I don't want to feel that way," he said. "I don’t want to feel that losing vibe again."
And thanks to his many mottos, like playing like you practice, and practicing like you play, he's gotten his players to buy in.
He’s hoping that’s enough to win another ring.
"It would mean the world to me to hold up that trophy," Bradley said. "That 2021 trophy for Taft High School and for the Cincinnati Public School District."