If you attend local high school girls' basketball games this winter, you may see a familiar face in the stands from time to time.
But former Eastern York girls' basketball coach Bob Heiser isn't there for just sheer enjoyment, and he isn't there to scout for his old school, either.
Heiser, who led the Golden Knights through 12 highly successful seasons, is back in the coaching ranks. Only this time, it's at a higher level with the Penn State York women's program.
Heiser accepted a position as assistant coach and head recruiter for the Lady Lions back in September. He'll work aside current head coach Terri Van Slyke, who also happens to work in the PSY admissions department.
What happens next year is anyone's guess. He could be back again as an assistant or he could do something more.
Either way, Heiser is happy trying to replicate the success that the Penn State York men's team has achieved under former West York and Red Lion boys' basketball coach Parrish Petry.
The PSY women currently sit at 2-7, while the PSY men are 10-2.
We caught up with Heiser to discuss his new endeavor for this edition of Sports Q&A.
So it appears you haven't really "retired" from coaching. How did you manage to get involved with the women's program at Penn State York?
"Well I was actually (looking) for some part-time work to do during the winter, so I knew the assistant AD, Don Walker, at Penn State York. I sent him an email to see if he knew of anything for me and he got back to me the very same day and said they did have an opportunity. They had hired a young gal (Terri Van Slyke) in admissions to be the head coach this year. I guess they had a fellow lined up, but it didn't work out for them, so she was going to be an assistant and they made her the head coach. So he said they had an assistant coaching job and a recruiting job for me if I wanted to take it on. So I'm an assistant coach and I'm basically trying to recruit players for next year."
When did this happen?
"It was September or early October. It was about two weeks before college practice started."
Is the recruiting aspect something that you were looking for ward to?
"I thought to myself that I sure plan to go out and watch a lot of high school basketball games anyway. Now, as I go watch them, I can talk to kids. I just didn't realize that I would be traveling so far. In fact, this past week I traveled to Maryland three times to go talk to kids. It was just across the border, but it was still a little bit more travel than I thought. But it's a good opportunity. I'm still technically getting the year off, because she's the head coach and I'm not. You have so much more duties as the head coach than you do as an assistant. So it's perfect for me to just be an assistant and recruit.
So how do you like it so far?
"I'm having fun and I've talked to a lot of my former peers and coaches and the kids on the teams when I watch games. I talk to the seniors, but it's kind of tough sometimes because the better players have been looking at Division III schools for quite a while and I don't have offers to go play Division III ball."
So what level is Penn State York then?
"It's the USCAA (United States Collegiate Athletics Association). We're in the PSUAC (Penn State University Athletics Conference), which is a league with other Penn State campuses around the state."
With your experi ence in high school as a coach, how does that help with recruiting players and knowing what to look for?
"Well this year is helpful because I know all the coaches and I know a lot of the girls by first name. They come up to me after games and I talk with them. And the coaches have been very receptive. They've talked to me before the games and tell me players that are seniors. They have a good idea of what players are not already signed up with somebody already. And being a coach all those years and scouting games, it helps because now, instead of going out and looking for schemes and what kind of defenses, I'm actually looking at players and skill levels and fundamentals ... those kinds of things. I think that experience helps me to foresee if they can help us out as a player."
So what's your sales pitch been like?
"(Laughs). Well ... we don't have a real strong position because we're not NCAA Division III. My sales pitch actually is geared more toward the parents than toward the kids. What we can do is provide a real inexpensive, at least the first two years, of their education. They can stay home and save the room and board money, which is quite substantial. Penn State's tuition is very low compared to a number of the private schools out there. That's what we try to talk to them about. There's eight majors that they can take over four years at Penn State York, but most of our kids go two years and then move on to (State College) or somewhere else to get their final two years. So that's about the best sales pitch that I have ... that we can save the parents a lot of money. When you talk to the kids ... that don't mean a lot. (Laughs)."
So what's your future outlook? Do you know what you'll be doing next year? Any expectations?
"Well nothing public. My objective now is to try to make the team better so we can compete and be more competitive in our conference. That's what they expect out of me. As far as next year, we'll have to see what we can do. I know that when they hired (Parrish) Petry five years ago or so, it was the same deal. He was coming out of Red Lion and they asked him to try to build the team and he's done a nice job. Our men's team is very competitive. They have a heck of a team there again. So that's what they were kind of hoping they do (with me)."
What are the big dif ferences between coaching at the collegi ate level as opposed to high school?
"Well, the kids are more mature. They listen and it doesn't take as many repetitions. Lots of times at the high school level, if you want to change something or put something new in, you just have to do a lot of repetitions in practice. The kids (here) seem to catch on a lot quicker. The other big thing is the shot clock. In high school I was always an advocate of just hanging on to the ball a little longer and taking some time off the clock, but in women's basketball at the college level it's just a 30-second shot clock. You can hold on to the ball for a little bit, but you have to be prepared to get the offense rolling. But in many respects, a lot of the things we do are very similar to what we do at the high school level."
Has anyone on the current PSY women's team surprised you from what you did or didn't know about them in the past?
"(Delone Catholic grad) Courtney Riggs. We played against her for her complete career and she has matured tremendously. She's a solid player for us. She rebounds and she can handle the basketball. She does a little bit of everything for us. She's very determined. I think her maturity, and she'll be a senior next year, she's been a real nice surprise. Then we have Lauren Riggleman from Susquehannock. I probably didn't coach against Lauren too many times because we didn't play Susquehannock a lot way back when Lauren played, but she's just a tremendous player. She's quite speedy and she's a little bit like Courtney in that she does a little bit of everything. She's not very tall, so she doesn't attack the boards like Courtney, but she's definitely the team leader when it comes to offense. She can put the basketball in the basket. So those two players, and both of them scored 30 points in our last game."
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.