York High athletic director Ronald Coursey may have said it best when introducing Clovis Gallon as the next York High boys' basketball coach on Wednesday: "He's York High through and through."
Gallon has spent his whole life in York City. That wasn't lost on the school board members. During their meeting on Wednesday, the board unanimously approved his hiring.
"For me, it's huge," Gallon said. "It's something that I envisioned for myself and it's definitely been a goal of mine since I graduated from college. Playing college basketball and going through that experience, I was taking it all in and recognizing the fact that one day I was going to have the opportunity to go back to my alma mater and be a head coach and it's an exciting time. An exciting time for my family."
Gallon's hire comes on the heels of the resignation of longtime head coach Troy Sowers in February after 10 hugely successful years with the team. During all 10 of those years, Gallon was Sowers' top assistant.
So, when Gallon stood up to speak at the board meeting on Wednesday, Sowers was on his mind. Sowers' program was founded on high-character kids and not just good basketball players. That wasn't lost on Gallon. He spoke of the criticism that Sowers received this past year from within the York City community, all because the team had a down year, going 12-10. He praised Sowers and reminded everyone in attendance that they weren't there to see all the behind-the-scenes work that Sowers did to make sure his players graduated on time and could make college visits. It's what he vowed to continue.
"We've had a ton of success, why change that," he said. "If it's not broke, don't fix that. All you do is continue to try to build on what you've had in place and try to enhance those practices that you helped design."
A long time coming: A 1993 graduate of York High, Gallon has been a coach with the Bearcat basketball program for 15 years. He started out coaching the junior high and freshman teams in the first five years and then moved up to the head coach of the junior varsity team and an assistant at the varsity level. He has three children who are all in the school district, including one who played on the junior varsity team and suited up on the varsity team this past season as a freshman, and one who will enter high school next year.
It was a waiting game for Gallon. He had to bide his time under Sowers. But it helped him prepare for the rigors that come with coaching one of the premier AAAA basketball programs in District 3 and the state.
"All of those years have been lessons for me," he said. "The fire still burns. Ask any of my students, you can ask any of my sons, you can ask my wife, it's a constant grind and I'm always thinking about what I can do to improve as a coach and what I can do to help develop players."
Despite his long history at the school and with the program, getting hired as Sowers' successor wasn't a sure thing for Gallon. The minute the position was opened, it became one of the most sought-after coaching jobs by several top-notch coaches in the area.
Relief for Coursey: It proved to be easily the biggest task at hand for Coursey, who only came on board as the new AD in February. Coursey went into the application process not having much background on Gallon's past with the program, but quickly learned what he's meant to the community and the team.
"This was a very difficult decision," Coursey said. "We had a lot of qualified applicants. ... But, for me, it seemed like a no-brainer, from the sense of someone who's an alumni, has played college basketball, who's been on the staff here for 15 years and has been the right-hand man to a successful coach and one of the most winningest coaches the school has ever seen. I just felt like for continuity purposes, he made the most sense."
Coursey's decision seemed to be affirmed by the standing ovation Gallon received from the school board members and community members in attendance after his approval. Coursey has now filled the high-profile coaching vacancies for both the boys' basketball team and football team.
"It is a load off of my back," Coursey joked. "It's fun, though, and exciting, because, typically when you come in as athletic director you already have some coaches in place who may have some habits or the way they do things and I think the benefit of this situation is I have two brand new varsity coaches who are coming in and starting new with me. So, it's really exciting for me to share my vision with them and their vision with me and build this thing together."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org