For the past four years, James Brooks has been one half of a tandem largely responsible for rebuilding the Spring Grove boys' basketball program.
The other part of that duo was, of course, his son, Eli, the standout guard who will play for Michigan next year.
With Eli leaving, James Brooks wanted to make sure that the recent resurgence of the Rockets' program didn't just go away in an instant. That's the main reason why, after careful consideration, James Brooks will return as Spring Grove's head coach next winter for a fifth season, making the decision about two weeks ago.
"I think the big thing is, I really wanted to know that what we changed, just the atmosphere in Spring Grove, stayed," James Brooks said. "I didn't want to lose any of the momentum that we gained the last couple years and I'm going to do it year by year, and if it seems to work out, I'm going to keep coaching."
James Brooks knew of the buzz surrounding his uncertain future once the Rockets' season came to a close back in March. With Eli set to play NCAA Division I basketball next year for the Wolverines, the rumblings started about whether or not James Brooks would return to Spring Grove. There was much speculation that the coach would leave the Spring Grove program so he could watch his son play in college.
However, after coaching Eli for much of his basketball playing career, James Brooks felt it was necessary to give Eli the space he needs in college, while also continuing to do something that he loves.
"We're not going to be able to be at every game he plays anyways," James Brooks said. "So, it was really a sense that I want him to be able to focus on what he needs to and I thought the right thing for me was to continue doing something that I love to do. If it interferes too much, then I'll make a decision down the road to maybe step aside, but right now, it was a good place for me to be at, while it also gives him some room to spread his wings."
Stellar mark: In his four seasons with the Rockets, James Brooks has a 69-37 overall record and a 32-21 mark within York-Adams League Division I play. Most of those losses, however, came within the first two years of his tenure. After taking over before the 2013-14 season, Spring Grove went 22-25 overall in his first two seasons.
Over the last two seasons, however, the Rockets put together two of the best years in program history, just as Eli became a legit Division I prospect. Spring Grove is 47-12 in that time, winning the program's first Y-A League tournament title in 45 years in 2015-16 and advancing to the state quarterfinals this past season in the PIAA Class 5-A tournament, the best-ever result in program history.
Commitment to the program: While Eli's play on the court grabbed most of the attention surrounding the Rockets, it's been James Brooks' commitment to the program at every level that's resonated within the community.
"The commitment and passion that coach Brooks has for the sport of basketball, and not just at the high school level, but the time he puts in with the youth program and time he puts in working with the kids as a group and as individuals, that can't be overlooked," Spring Grove athletic director Greg Wagner said. "The man has a strong inner drive and passion for the game of basketball that you don't always find."
James Brooks is already actively involved in coaching the Rockets in a summer league and helping to organize youth camps for younger kids in the system. He said he's already noticing a difference without Eli out there participating and expects that, by the time next winter rolls around, he'll be used to not having his son on his team anymore.
Another rebuild?: Eli won't be the only notable loss Spring Grove will suffer heading into next season. Starters Jake Messersmith, Austin Panter and Jon Sager all graduated earlier this month. The only starter returning next year will be Drew Gordon, who will be a senior next year, while Grant Sterner, who will also be a senior, is the most notable bench player from last season's team who will return.
Things will certainly look different with the Rockets next year, with the absence of Eli sure to be the most noticeable.
However, James Brooks will be hollering commands from the sideline for at least one more season.
"I just felt like now would not be the right time to go," James Brooks said. "I kind of weighed back and forth: 'Yes I'll (coach). No I won't (coach)' and I saw the pluses and minuses of doing it either way, and I don't do good sitting around my house, so we're going to go back at it another year."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com