As June hits the halfway point, with the official beginning of summer just a few days away, for those graduating students who’ve recently seen their high school days completed and their parents, it has been an emotional two weeks. Preparing for, and looking forward to, the end of that senior year is one thing; soaking in the reality of it all is quite another.
There have been the invitations, the tassel-flipping, the hugs and photos, and several parties along the way. With those things in the rear-view mirror, a constant has emerged, one that will remain with them forever — memories. For each, those memories will vary, but for the athletes, what they accomplished on the field of competition and who they shared them with will stand the test of time. For most, the coaches who guided them along that sports journey will hold a special place in those memory banks.
It won’t so much be about wins and losses but more about the shared coach/athlete relationship. What they said. What they did. How they conducted themselves and the motivation they provided will all remain years later.
As the years pass, the identity of the coach and the graduating seniors will fade into the history books. Both new coaches and new athletes will emerge, and hopefully, that wonderful sports cycle we so much enjoy here in central Pennsylvania will continue to hold our interest. But in soaking in all the graduation news of recent days, it also hit me there are coaching changes taking place which haven’t been finalized with the distributing of diplomas.
Architects of two of Lycoming County’s most successful coaching achievements of the 2020-21 school year have decided to hang up their clipboards and whistle. Montoursville’s Mike Mussina and South Williamsport’s Rob Houseknecht have vacated their head basketball coaching posts at their respective schools. Mussina led the Warriors to a string of District Four playoff appearances while Houseknecht’s Mountaineers posted a 17-6 season while claiming a share of the Mid-Penn Conference championship. To date, both vacancies remain unfilled.
At Muncy, several coaching vacancies are being advertised. The Tribe is looking for leaders to fill the head coaching jobs of three girls’ sports — tennis, basketball, and softball.
A recent conversation with an area athletic director revealed that in many instances finding individuals to coach school sports teams is becoming increasingly more difficult. As advertised positions go unfilled, personal recruitment by ADs and school officials to find candidates is often necessary. Sadly, there are many sideline coaches, but the needed time requirements and behind-the-scenes details of the head coach require an often hard-to-find dedication. They are not positions one seeks solely for the compensation.
High School coaching positions have little in common with big-time college sports. But even there, with fame and fortune a companion, the demands of the job can become too much. In recent weeks two of college basketball’s all-time greatest coaches have announced their retirements. Both Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina’s Roy Williams are vacating the bench.
Krzyzewski, Coach K to most, has announced his plans to retire following the upcoming 2021-22 season. In 41 seasons, the Duke headman has won more games than anyone in college hoop history (1,170), and his teams have advanced to 12 Final Fours and captured five NCAA championships.
Citing the standard ‘I want to devote more time to the family’ rationale for his departure, some growing frustration with the operation of the NCAA may have played a part. In a media interview, Krzyzewski voiced his displeasure with the NCAA’s slow process of change. “The NCAA is a billion-dollar business that needs to be run more like a business and not by committees.”
For Williams, the end was a bit bittersweet.
“It’s been a thrill. It has been unbelievable. I’ve loved it. It’s coaching, and that’s all I ever wanted to do since the summer after my ninth-grade year of high school. But, I no longer feel that I am the right man for the job.”
In his 33 years on the bench at North Carolina and Kansas, Williams’ teams won 903 games, placing him third on the all-time wins list behind Coach K and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim. He led the Tar Heels and Jayhawks to nine Final Fours winning three times at North Carolina.
Locally, June saw the hiring of Rick Oliveri as the new baseball coach at Lycoming College as the Warriors restart their baseball program after decades of absence. Oliveri has spent the last 12 years as a coach at the Division 1 level, working at George Washington University, Monmouth University, and Radford University. The Warriors will begin their first full baseball season in 2022-23.
Getting to know the Lycoming Community through the interview process has Oliveri excited to get started.
“Each conversation and interaction taught me how committed Lycoming’s leadership is to growth and excellence. I am thrilled for this unique challenge to build a competitive, values-driven program that will compete at the top of the Middle Atlantic Conference and represent the iconic baseball region of Williamsport in a first-class manner.”
Welcome to Williamsport Coach Oliveri; very best wishes to all the 2021 graduates, and may all the coaching vacancies be filled with individuals dedicated to the profession.