During his time as head coach at Northeastern, Bill Novak worked hard to emulate the atmosphere that has surrounded the highly successful Red Lion girls’ basketball program.
During his three-year run leading the Bobcat girls’ team, Novak tried to instill the same sort of effort, preparation and attitude that have made the Lions such a powerhouse under longtime head coach Don Dimoff — who just happens be a good friend of Novak's.
Little did he know that his time at Northeastern was only a prelude for a bigger challenge to come.
That challenge has arrived.
Novak, who worked as an assistant coach under Dimoff last season, was recently hired by Red Lion to take over the reins of the program after Dimoff unexpectedly stepped down in July. Dimoff subsequently was hired as an assistant coach at Millersville University, the same school that his daughter, Courtney, is now attending.
“Don and I worked really well together,” Novak said. “Same philosophy, we both kind of think alike in terms of how to run a program. So this was a great match.”
Had it not been for some unexpected circumstances, Novak might still be coaching at Northeastern. Health issues involving his mother, who lives in Baltimore, ended up driving his decision to briefly "retire" from coaching at the end of the 2014-15 season.
Fortunately for Novak, who compiled a 37-37 record with Northeastern, his mother’s health improved markedly before the onset of last season. That allowed the former Bobcat coach, who works as a speech therapist for the Red Lion Area School District, the opportunity to jump back into coaching as an assistant at Red Lion before last season.
Unexpected opening: Novak was fully expecting to again help Dimoff this season before news of Dimoff’s departure was announced. Dimoff broke the news to Novak while the two were at a summer camp at Millersville in July.
“After the season ended he said ‘I plan on coming back,'” Novak said. “So we were planning and moving along. We actually did summer league and we were up at Millersville’s team camp. I guess it was the first night when Don came and said ‘hey, I’ve got to talk to you about something.'”
That something was an unexpected opening for an assistant position at Millersville. Dimoff had flirted with the idea of coaching above the high school ranks before, but never was presented with an opportunity like this one.
While Novak and the Red Lion girls were certainly disheartened to find out that the man Novak called the "face of the program" was moving on, they all understood his decision.
“While (the girls) were disappointed and they liked playing for him, I think they understand that it’s an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up,” Novak said. “It wasn’t something where he could say ‘well, I’d really like to do it, but could you wait a year?’ When an opportunity like that comes about you have to take it.”
That is exactly the same spot that Novak found himself in. With the support of his wife, Shelly, and the rest of his family, he applied for the open position at Red Lion.
Now that he’s coaching a program that he once tried to emulate, he couldn’t be happier.
“When (the Red Lion administration) entrusted me with this program, one of the things I did tell them was that I modeled Northeastern after what Don had built here,” he said. “Everyone looks at what happens on the court, but it’s a whole culture that lives here at Red Lion. And I plan on continuing that.”
In 22 years as the Lions' head coach, Dimoff went 480-141, good for a .773 winning percentage. In league games, Dimoff's Lions were even better, going 298-38 (an .887 winning percentage). Dimoff's teams won nine York-Adams League titles, including this past season. On top of that, 14 times Red Lion was the Y-A League Division I champion, including winning 12 straight from 2000-01 through 2011-12. The Lions also won the District 3 Class 4-A titles in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.