Ronald Coursey didn't have an easy task awaiting him as the new athletic director at York High School.
When he started back in February, there was no honeymoon period. No feeling-out process. He had to jump directly into the deep end, faced with two huge coaching vacancies that would've challenged any of the other 22 ADs in the York-Adams League.
The Bearcats don't have nearly as many athletic programs as most other Y-A League or District 3 schools, yet there he was tasked with fulfilling what seemed like a year's worth of work right out of the gate. First, he had to find a new head football coach to resurrect a program that is coming off an 0-10 season and long removed from its glory years. That was Coursey's first job and he moved quickly, hiring ex-Spring Grove head coach Russ Stoner to lead the football team next year. That hole was the most pressing to fill as soon as possible — mainly because a coach was needed to rally players to come out for the team. The new football coach would also need to put together an offseason workout program.
In the grand scheme of the two vacancies, however, the football job was likely the less vital of the two openings.
At York High, basketball is king, primarily boys' basketball. For the past 10 seasons, the Bearcats have been not only the premier program in the Y-A League, but one of the best in District 3-AAAA and even in the state. All of that has to do with former coach Troy Sowers.
Sowers built his teams around kids that showed exemplary character, respecting their opponents, officials, coaches and teammates. It worked too. York High won the Y-A League Division I six times, four league championships and three District 3-AAAA gold medals. There was also one runner-up result in the state tournament in 2009.
So, when he resigned back in February at the end of the season, it came as a huge shock to many — not just in the York City community, but around the Pennsylvania basketball community. Once all of that subsided, then the question became: "Who's going to be the next coach?"
If you spent any time around the program at all during Sowers' tenure, you had a hunch that his No. 1 assistant and right-hand man, Clovis Gallon, was the top candidate. All he had to do was throw his hat into the ring. However, even when he did, the position was so highly regarded around the mid-state, that Gallon wasn't going to just be handed the job.
The job was highly coveted despite the fact that it comes with constant pressure to succeed, which is ultimately what burned out Sowers,
"This was a very difficult decision," Coursey said following last Wednesday's school board meeting that saw Gallon get approved. "We had a lot of qualified applicants, all of (their) resumes were very impressive."
On one hand, having that many applicants interested in an open position does make it tough for a man such as Coursey to choose, but he also knows that whoever he picks is certainly going to be qualified for the job. On the other hand, when you have a coach such as Gallon available, it would've been just as hard to justify hiring anyone but him.
After all, Gallon was born and raised in York City, graduated from the school and spent the last 15 years coaching in the program, the last 10 as the varsity assistant.
This was a big decision for Coursey to make right off the bat. Unlike with the football team, which will need time to develop and succeed, supporters are going to expect to see the Bearcats back competing for league and district championships next season. It was hardly an easy task, with the pressure surrounding it, but Coursey made it an easy decision by choosing the right man.
If Coursey had a list of applicants who were all worthy candidates, only Gallon was truly the perfect one.
Going forward, only Gallon could actually continue to build upon what Sowers created during his 10 years. As he said following his approval by the school board on Wednesday night: "If it's not broke, why fix it?"
As for Coursey, maybe now he can sit back in his chair and breathe for a minute or two. Lord knows he hasn't had the chance to do that in the two-plus months since coming aboard.
And he can sit back knowing that, of the two coaching choices he made, one (Stoner) was a good choice and the other (Gallon) was the only choice. That was affirmed by the loud applause Gallon got when he was approved last Wednesday night.
That's the ultimate vote of confidence — knowing that his work right off that bat came with a passing grade.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org