For the past 10 seasons, there was always one constant when people went out to watch the York High boys' basketball team.
You could always count on Troy Sowers being on the sidelines, barking out orders to his players. For 10 years, Sowers was the coach of the Bearcats, transforming the program from good to great. Under Sowers, York became one of the most consistent big-school programs in the entire state.
When York High takes the court for its season-opening game on Saturday, Dec. 10, however, Sowers won't be there. Instead, for the first time in more than a decade, someone else will be calling the shots from the sideline for the Bearcats' varsity team.
The Clovis Gallon era of York High basketball is a little more than a week away.
"You're waiting for the first official practice, the first official scrimmage, the first official game," Gallon said during York-Adams League winter sports media day. "I'm anxious for that. But, as far as being the head coach of York High, the transition was pretty smooth. It was pretty easy."
As far as coaching changes come, the move from Sowers to Gallon is about as easy as they get.
Every year that Sowers was head coach of the Bearcats, Gallon was his top assistant and tasked with coaching the junior varsity team. He was there from Day 1, experiencing all of the big changes that Sowers implemented into the program, including improving academic standards, sportsmanship and expectations. Gallon attributes what he learned under Sowers to preparing him for the job ahead.
So, what people will see out of York High this season probably won't differ too much from what they saw under Sowers. However, Gallon will also look to put his own stamp on the program by coming up with ways to improve on some of the deficiencies that plagued the team a year ago. That was a season that saw the Bearcats stumble to a 12-11 mark, one of their worst seasons under Sowers.
"There's going to be a lot of continuity," Gallon said. "A lot of the same offenses and vocabulary that we're going to use, but, at the same time, you recognize where some of your weaknesses are and we're definitely going to focus on those things too."
Smooth transition: For the players still on the team from last year, they're comfortable with Gallon as their coach. They all played for him at one time in high school when they were part of the JV team. Some of them also played for Gallon at a younger age before they got to high school and outside of high school basketball in AAU.
"There hasn't really been any transition," senior forward Jayden Iturmendi said during media day. "He basically coached us a lot in our life when we were younger. He was our coach at Boys' Club and for AAU, so (the transition) really wasn't hard."
Improving weaknesses: As much as it's Gallon's responsibility to revive York High basketball after a down year, it's something that also falls on the shoulders of the players.
For as gifted as the Bearcats were a year ago on the offensive end, they struggled just as much defensively. Their 67.1 points per game of offense was second in the Y-A League. However, the 63.8 points per game they allowed was the third-most in the league and the most among teams that finished with a winning record. The glaring weaknesses on the defensive end showed in games against better opponents, who could slow down York High's attack, while the Bearcats couldn't do the same.
"What we're improving on now is our individual defense and our team defense," senior guard Jacquez Casiano said during media day. "We gave up a lot of points last year, so we're focusing on making sure we don't give up that many points, so we're just working on our defense."
There's rarely a team in York County that generates the type of buzz that York High boys' basketball does at the start of every season.
Right from the jump this season, the Gallon-led Bearcats will be tested in their own Gettle and Veltri Tip-off Tournament. York will play South Philadelphia on Saturday, Dec. 10, while the other semifinal will pit Williamsport against Reading. The consolation and championship games are set for Sunday, Dec. 11. Reading features the state's top player and Miami commit Lonnie Walker.
Stiff non-league competition was a patent of the Sowers era and will surely stick around under Gallon. Winning was also a signature of Sowers' reign and, if Gallon follows in his predecessor's footsteps, that surely won't go away either.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com.