MANCHESTER — If you’ve lived in York County for long, you’ve no doubt heard of Gary Sutton.
He's a man with a very public persona.
He's a well-known radio talk-show host on WSBA 910 AM.
He's a television commentator for state-wide sporting events on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.
And he's a PIAA state championship basketball coach.
One thing that many people may not know, however, is that Sutton is a 1969 graduate of Northeastern High School.
Northeastern also just happens to be the next stop on his 40-year basketball coaching journey. He's the new leader of the girls' program for the Bobcats.
Sutton, 65, is hoping that his "homecoming" in Manchester lives up to his high expectations.
“I’m the only member of my family to graduate from here,” Sutton said. “My dad was a principal here from 1960 through 1983. So it’s really something special for me to come home here to be a part of a Bobcat tradition that I grew up with and loved.”
Sutton has high expectations for a pretty young squad that features just two seniors. He’s put in countless hours since early this spring working with the team to get it into a position to win every night.
“We want to establish a program here where the kids expect to win,” he said. “Because I expect to win. I expect that every night that we go out, that we’re going to go out and win. And that’s something I want to instill with our kids as well.”
Having coached the Columbia boys’ basketball team to an improbable PIAA title back in 1987, Sutton knows what it takes to be successful on the court. He hopes his years of experience can help a Bobcat squad that finished third in the York-Adams League Division II standings a year ago with a 10-7 mark (17-11 overall).
“These girls are pretty dedicated,” he said. “This is a whole group that’s been with us since April. If you would have told me this summer that we’d be doing some of the things that we’re now doing I’d have said ‘you’re crazy.’ They’re a lot of fun and they’re working hard at it.”
Key team members: Sutton has the good fortune of inheriting a team headlined by Millersville-bound Jordyn Kloster. Just 16 points shy of 1,000 for her career, the senior forward is eager to see what her team can do under a new coaching staff.
“He’s been around the game a lot, so he has a lot of good insight to give to us,” Kloster said of Sutton, who coached her AAU team for two years. “He knows a lot of different plays that I think a lot of people around York County may have never seen before just because he’s been around for so long.”
Kloster will be joined as a team captain by guards Kyra Sanchez and Kendra Meyer. Sutton likes the defensive potential of Sanchez as well as the outside shooting that Meyer brings to the squad.
“Kyra, who didn’t play last year, is back and she’s an outstanding guard,” Sutton said. “She been probably one of our best defensive players, period. And Kendra brings a lot of great shooting ability. She knocked down five 3s in our only scrimmage this past Saturday so we’ll be counting on her to shoot the ball for us.”
Kloster, who finished sixth in the league in scoring at 16.1 points per game a year ago, will likely draw most of the attention from her team’s opponents this season. More of a post-only presence just two years ago, the 5-foot, 9-inch Kloster has grown her game to the point where she can be a threat to score from nearly anywhere on the court, as evidenced by her 32 3-pointers last season.
“Jordyn, both inside and outside, brings a lot to the table for us,” Sutton said. “Having been a first-team all-county player last year, she’s certainly got some pedigree.”
While coaching is nothing new for Sutton, the thrill of opening weekend never gets old. After weeks and months of practicing, the time to see what his team can do is just a few hours away. Northeastern will play in the Mifflin County Tournament, where the Bobcats will face Shippensburg Friday night.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “I don’t care how many years you coach, it can get old with all the many nights we’ve been in the gym going over all the little wrinkles here and there. And it can be so hard, because (the girls) are used to seeing the same kids. But I’m excited for Friday night against Shippensburg to see what we can do.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.