Coach Geoff Groff has been a fixture in the LL for many years. LMHS had a fantastic year (PIAA run that fell a second short of playing for in a PIAA title game). Coach Groff shares with us some of his thoughts. Enjoy!
1) Congrats of a great season- 400 win mark, great run in post season, and LLhoops.com Section 3 Coach of the Year. Was there anything/game/moment when you thought that you had a “special team”?
I felt like this could be a solid team because John Gillespie and Carter Hurst were 3-year starters and in my opinion were as good as any guard combo we were going to face this year. I also felt like with Roman Ali we had a very good player who if he could stay healthy would surprise a lot of people. We needed to stay healthy as a group and we needed both Elijah’s to make the transition from solid JV players to contributing Varsity players. It took us a little longer than I had hoped to find our stride, but the second time we played N. Lebanon at our place was a game where I felt like we could build on to make a solid post season run! York Catholic District game was a major concern, because we have flip-flopped with them the last number of years. The team that won in the regular season, and then got beat when played in Districts! Elijah Bynum came up big and in some ways that was the most pressure game of the year for me. We needed a win to have a chance to move on! It also showed we had new guys who were not afraid to step up and make plays! Another characteristic, unique to this team, is that they responded so well to timeouts! I am not so good at using all my timeouts, but when I do, I usually have something very direct to say! To their credit, they more often than not rose to the occasion, even if the execution was not always perfect, they found a way to make a play and regain momentum or stop our opponents momentum.
2) Your team traveled to the Western part of the state for a few of your PIAA games….Was the style any different? How did you get get information on the western schools?
We don’t make many adjustments when it comes to scouting. I try to keep the focus on “us” and “our” strengths, but it is nice to have video for players and coaches to see. My wife and I traveled to the District 6 Championship tournament so we got to see Ligonier Valley play Richmond! – It was hard to get anything on Westinghouse, except that they had a 7′ who was really good (He was). We had tape on Greenville because we had an arrangement with the Charter school that Greenville beat to exchange video after the Westinghouse game and to the coach’s credit he sent me video of their game even though they lost! As far as style of play the biggest difference was in the defensive end. We saw more zone, and a more passive approach with an emphasis on keeping the ball out of the paint as opposed to keeping it on one side or another. Passive may not be a good word, I guess it is more of the college style defense of pressure on the ball, and everyone else getting into the paint.
3) Has the high school changed from the time you first were head coach at LMHS to now? If so, how?
Not sure what you are looking for in that question? I know as a coach I am more structured especially on the defense and more focused on doing a few things better and planning our system and practices around potential post-season games. More time is spent on half court situations and less time on using a press. As a school we are more diverse (good), and it has gotten harder to get athletes to play multiple sports(not as good). Support from the students, to the parents, to the administrators continues to be there. When I started we did not have any Jr. High program! Now we have three teams! Not many schools our size have a separate 7th grade team!
4) We heard a story about a relative providing some medical attention in a playoff game- can you share some of that story?
My son-in-law who is an emergency room doctor saved the day for us against Westinghouse. One of our players got a serious cut on the eye lid and cheek bone area shortly into the second half, and the Altoona trainer did not feel good about letting our guy continue in the game. It was a bigger gash than could be fixed with a band aid or butterfly. Dr. Dave Landis came to the rescue with a small FA kit he keeps in his car that had the glue that can be used as a substitute to stitches in certain injuries. He was given permission by the trainer and he took care of our player. He was able to return to action and we won the game by two.
5) What advice would you give to young assistant coaches to strive to be head coaches at the High School level?
Be willing to put in the time. You will learn more from losing than from winning. Find a way to enjoy the journey! Stay focused on what you can control and don’t get caught up in what you can’t control. x’s and o’s will only take you so far-communication and player buy in, especially your best players will give you the best chance of exceeding expectations.