Last minute coaching changes
Some people say that change is a good thing. That may be true in most cases, but when it happens suddenly at the last minute, it can be tough to deal with.
Two local basketball coaches, Palmerton's Frank McCarroll and Lehighton's Chris Kasian, were thrusted into the head job with little or no warning. One man had roughly three days to prepare as the head coach, while the other didn't become the lead man until two weeks of the season had already passed.
McCarroll, now the Bombers' boys coach, arguably had it the roughest of the two. McCarroll received a call the afternoon of Palmerton's fourth game of the season against Northwestern. The call informed him that Mick Stefanek, the then head coach, had stepped down and that he was going to coach the boys that night.
"I was surprised to say the least," said McCarroll. "I had no idea what was going on and I didn't know much about the situation. I didn't know if I was just coaching that night, a few games, or the rest of the season. It was a hectic few hours.
"I feel like it did affect our play that night. Not necessarily because of what was going on, but because I hadn't had any time to scout. We didn't know what (Northwestern) was going to run or what we should run."
Palmerton lost the game by 33 points. Since then the Bombers have shown improvement. Palmerton stayed in its next two games against Pen Argyl and Jim Thorpe, but lost by 10 and 12 points respectively.
McCarroll, a long time assistant under Stefanek, hasn't changed much of the original game-plan. However, he did admit that he was a little bit more open on the offensive end than his predecessor was.
"I am a little more of the 'push it on offense' type of guy," McCarroll said. "I don't get mad whenever someone shoots. I'm not saying Mick did, but I don't really care. The kids can shoot whenever.
"My big thing is getting back on defense. Sure you can score 30 points, but if you give up 40 then it isn't going to work. I give the guys freedom on offense. In turn they have to bust their butts on defense."
For Lehighton girls basketball coach Chris Kasian, the situation was slightly different than McCarroll's, but no less stressful. However, when asked if there was any difficulty in taking over the program from former head coach Ray Bressi, Kasian was definitive in his answer.
"No. Absolutely not," Kasian said.
Kasian was on Bressi's staff in his one and only season at Lehighton so there was some familiarity with the program.
"Coach Bressi allowed me to coordinate a lot of activities while I was with him last year which has really helped in the transition," Kasian said.
Kasian admitted that he was surprised when he found out Bressi was resigning.
"It was shocking to find out three days before our first game and it was really sad to see him go because he has been a mentor for me," Kasian said. "I would have loved to see him stick around.
"But the transition was really easy. The parents and kids made it really easy. The district and (Athletic Director) Kyle Spotts have supported me throughout this process. I am truly blessed to coach at Lehighton."
Kasian said that he and Bressi have the same values and beliefs. With that, he has kept much of what the former coach installed at the school.
"Coach Bressi and I are very similar and I think the girls realized that very early on," Kasian said. "I want them to know he's still a big part of the direction of this program."
Kasian is excited to see what the team can accomplish the rest of this season, as well as next year when they have a full season together.
"I can't wait for the off-season," Kasian said. "I want the girls to play in summer leagues and AAU games this summer. We have a lot of good athletes on the team. We just need to learn how to play basketball as a team."
TOURNEY TIME ... Eleven local basketball teams wrapped up their performances in their respective tournaments last week.
The Northern Lehigh boys won their annual Slatington Rotary Christmas Tournament, as the 'Dawgs defeated Jim Thorpe 56-20. Lehighton won the consolation game over Palmerton, 77-55.
The Palmerton girls topped Lehighton in the Lady Indian Holiday Classic final, winning 58-26. Northern Lehigh beat Jim Thorpe in the consolation, 32-25.
The Panther Valley girls were the only other local team to win a tournament. The Lady Panthers avenged an earlier season loss to Shenandoah Valley in the final of the Senator Rhodes Tournament, 34-29.
Two other local teams, the Pleasant Valley boys and the Tamaqua girls, won their respective consolation match-ups. The Bears knocked off Pocono Mountain East in the Hazleton Tournament 73-41, while the Lady Raiders outlasted Pottsgrove 46-33 in the Southern Lehigh Tournament.