Keeping coaching in the family
Coaching basketball is all Kevin Bankos has done since 1982. Now the York Catholic girls' basketball coach is keeping the tradition alive in his family, with his daughter, Ashton, alongside him.
The majority of basketball players see the end of their playing careers coincide with the end of their educational endeavors.
Be it in high school or college, most players do not advance into the professional ranks after they complete their schooling.
But, a lot of players simply don’t want their association with the sport to end like that. So, they look for ways to stay involved.
The most common avenue taken is the coaching route. It fills a need to stay involved, while also providing an outlet to pass on the wisdom accumulated along the way to a younger generation of players.
And that’s just what York Catholic girls’ basketball coach Kevin Bankos has been doing since his playing career ended in 1982.
“I’ve been doing it for all of 31 years,” Bankos said, noting that he took a few years off while his wife, Donna, battled cancer. “Jack Angelo at Saint Joe’s asked me to come coach my senior year summer of 1982. Then the following fall I was coaching 7th and 8th grade boys basketball. And I coached with them for 10 years.”
Player-coach bond: Bankos was happy and successful coaching the youth boys teams. Never in a million years did he think that he would later become one of the most successful girls basketball coaches. Period.
His daughter, Ashton, changed all of that.
“(Ashton) started playing basketball and my neighbor’s daughter started playing together,” he said. “But I was like, ‘no, I’m good.’ I even remember that I emphatically said that I would never coach girls’ basketball. But that was the better part of 20 years ago."
“But, obviously, I was wrong,” he finished with a chuckle.
He started by coaching third-grade girls’ basketball and followed Ashton along through youth programs. At the time, Andy Bria was the head coach of the varsity squad, so it didn’t seem possible for the head coach-player relationship to continue. Bria, however, stepped down after leading the team to a state title in 2005 giving Bankos the chance to make his mark.
“Andy is obviously a very good friend of mine,” Kevin said. “I would come in and help him out at practice and be a practice coach rather than a game-day coach. Well, one thing led to another and here I am.”
Like father, like daughter: After coaching Ashton for much of her playing career, the two were reunited once again. Only this time the relationship is not as a player and coach, but as a coach and a coach, as Ashton joined Kevin’s staff last year with the help of some special circumstances.
When her playing days at York Catholic and Juniata College concluded, Ashton found work as an assistant coach at nearby Elizabethtown College for two seasons. But, the school moved from the Middle-Atlantic Conference (MAC) to the Landmark Conference in the summer of 2014 around the same time that Ashton secured a full-time teaching position with the Dallastown School District. The combination of travel and time commitments to teaching left her at a cross-roads.
“She got a full-time job teaching at Dallastown that same year,” Kevin Bankos said. “And she’s from the mold that ‘if I can’t go to practice every night, then I can’t coach. It just wouldn’t feel right.’ And if she’s at Dallastown and they travel to Scranton, Drew, Merchant Marine, she wouldn’t make half the games.”
After leaving Elizabethtown, Ashton had a couple of offers to become a paid coach elsewhere at the high school level. None of those offers felt right to her which helped lead her back to her father and York Catholic.
“If I was going to coach anywhere, it would be here,” Ashton said. “Right now, I have a teaching career and I love it. I’m not ready to give that up. If I’m going to coach it’s got to be local and it’s got to be something that I’m willing to do. My dad and I talked about that a lot and it was like ‘what do you want to do? Do you want to a be a head coach or do you not want to?’”
She only needed to think about her dad to discover the answer.
“I would eventually like to be a head coach,” she said. “And I would be honored to coach back at where I started…where we started a bunch of stuff. It’s about giving back and I love giving back to what helped me become the person that I am today.”
Reunited: So that only meant one thing for now – helping out dad.
“She said, ‘well maybe I’ll just come back with you’,” Kevin said. “I was like, ‘yeah, we can talk about it’. Then, one day, I wake up and was told there’s a nice article in the paper. So I’m reading it and in it she says that she’s going to coach with her dad. And I said, ‘who said we were hiring you?’”
Of course, it didn’t take long for a solution to be found.
“She said, ‘I’m a volunteer so you have no choice’,” Kevin said with a laugh. “But, I said that absolutely she could come back. It’s obviously a blessing for me to have her.”
A two-way blessing that is. One that, just like their relationship over the years, is pretty well bonded.
“I told him, ‘you know that you’re stuck with me now’,” she said laughing. “But it’s fun. I like it.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.