Describing himself as “a basketball junkie,” newly named South Williamsport girls’ basketball coach Dean Kriebel’s upcoming on-court challenge isn’t nearly as daunting as the ten-month cancer foe he successfully defeated during the past year.
“Two years ago, I had the opportunity to get back in the game coaching the boys’ seventh-grade team, and I really enjoyed that,” Kriebel explained. “It got my blood boiling again regarding my love of the game. Last year when I couldn’t participate, watching the games at home was brutal, and it made me appreciate how great it had been to be involved in the game.
“When the previous coach stepped away in early September, I talked with [daughter] Lacy and [wife] Amy and decided it would be best for me to apply for the job. The seniors that are now on the team were girls Amy and I coached when they were in elementary school. So we coached them when they were first starting to play the game and now have the opportunity to coach them as they finish their high school careers.”
Kriebel’s basketball pedigree has laid the groundwork to face the hardwood tests awaiting his Lady Mounties in the upcoming season.
Following a successful high school career at Whitehall, he moved on to Lock Haven University, where he made his mark on and off the court; becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer and meeting Amy Barger (a 1,000-point scorer at LHU), who he would later marry.
His success at Lock Haven and an outstanding summer playing in Philadelphia’s Baker League resulted in an invitation from the Philadelphia 76ers to join the NBA team in pre-season camp.
“I had to make adjustments, but I was ecstatic,” said the 6’8” Kriebel. “Coming from Whitehall, nobody ever thought I’d do as well as I did, let alone get an opportunity with an NBA team.
“Offensively, it was a matter of catching the ball and shooting it right away. I was going against bigger and quicker guys, and you had to get the shot off right away. In college, I could take my time because I was usually bigger than the guy guarding me; it was the same thing on defense. I was going against guys who were really quick and bigger than I was.”
While Kriebel’s dream of playing in the NBA ultimately fell short of his goal, it is something he has long remembered.
“That opportunity to be a member of a professional basketball team, even though it was for a short time, and just getting to wear a Sixer uniform and be able to bang the boards with guys like Charles Barkley was quite a thrill. I was someone who always thought I’d have to buy a front-row ticket at the Spectrum to see the Sixers that up close.”
Although he now watches the 76ers games on TV, he is ready to pass on some of those past basketball challenges to the young ladies wearing South’s blue & white.
“I like to challenge the kids to reach their full potential by asking them to do things that they don’t think they can do. I like to keep an upbeat practice. I want to keep it fun, but I am a firm believer that if our practices are hard when they get into a game situation, the game becomes easy. I want to have fun. I want the team to be competitive, and we definitely want to win. We have a good chance to have an outstanding season, and that will be our team goal.
“I always want to play good competition, and our early season schedule is pretty brutal. Our six-game non-conference schedule includes games with Marion Catholic, Hughesville, Northumberland Christian (last year’s Class A state champion), Minersville, Bloomsburg, and Mt. Carmel. We’ll be facing these teams right off the bat and only have two weeks of practice this year before the season starts, so we have to hit the ground running.
“We lost an outstanding player in Claudia Green, but we have three all-conference players returning (seniors Piper Minier & Aleigha Rieppel and sophomore Lacy Kriebel) plus senior starter, Sophia Casella. Senior Zoe Threeton and sophomores Alizabeth Schuler and Abby Akers all have varsity experience; plus, we have some promising freshmen joining the team this year. I think we are pretty solid, and we are athletic.
“I want us to play fast and push the ball and see flames coming off the heels of the girls’ sneakers. Piper may be the best point guard in the conference, and with her speed and athleticism, we are best served by playing an up-tempo style.
“I want our players to be competitive and do the little things that it takes to win. Things like 50/50 balls, rebounding, and not shying away from contact. We have some scrappers on this team. We have such nice kids, but when we are on the court, I don’t want nice kids. Once we get on the floor, I want the team to play hard and aggressive.
Asked about the challenges of coaching his own daughter, Krieble was upbeat.
“When a coach has a son or daughter on the team, I know it presents challenges other coaches don’t face. It’s tough to coach your own kid. When the possibility of me coaching came up, we talked about it. I told Lacy she has to change, and so do I. When we walk on that court, I’m coach. When we get in the car and go home, I’m Dad again. Those are the adjustments we have to make together. We’ve had serious talks about it, and I am confident it will work out. We’ll work through it, and it will come out for the best in the end.”
For Dean Kriebel, the basketball court is a comfort zone. He’s already faced more difficult challenges.