St. Mary's High School announced today that it has hired Craig Battle as its new head boys basketball coach.

"What impressed us the most is that he cares about kids," said St. Mary's Athletic Director Greg Kelly, who was part of the hiring committee. "The other thing was his skill as a coach. He is a great x's and o's coach. We know that when he puts a team on the court, they will be ready to compete and compete on the highest level.

"We are looking to revitalize our boys basketball program."

"I know they have a rich tradition. It was an opportunity for me to grow with those guys. I'd always thought they did things the right way," said Battle, an off-campus coach. "They just carry themselves with such class and dignity. ... It is a pleasant place. ... This is a great step for me, a great opportunity."

Battle coached College Park for the past six seasons and led the Falcons to the 2013 CIF Division II state championship game. He was named Bay Area News Group East Bay Boys Basketball Coach of the Year that season. His squads at College Park also won the past three Diablo Valley Athletic League titles. In his six seasons at College Park, Battle had an overall record of 117-49 and a 58-14 DVAL record.

Battle said that leaving College Park was "very tough."

"You grow with the program. You grow together. As you grow together, it's hard to leave when you make such great strides as a unit. It was hard to leave College Park," he said.


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Battle also coached for nine years at Mt. Diablo. At St. Mary's, he replaces Olatunji Dean, who Kelly said was an interim coach last season. Manny Nodar, who had led the Panthers for 11 seasons, left the school for an administrative position with The Olympic Club in San Francisco in 2013.

Last season, the Panthers had an 19-11 overall record and 3-7 mark in the Tri-County Athletic League-Rock Division.