Cotchen takes over for MC girls team
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
Dan Cotchen didn’t have to think long about whether he wanted to apply for the vacant Manheim Central varsity girls basketball head coaching position earlier this year.
Getting the chance to join a school with a winning tradition in its athletic programs was a no-brainer.
"I think if you look at the tradition of the school’s athletic program and the competitiveness of their programs, it just seemed like a very good opportunity," the 50-year-old Cotchen said. "Their softball team, I believe, just went to the State championship and their girls volleyball team had a successful year this year and of course their football team is always traditionally good. So it seemed like it was a good program to be part of."
Cotchen was approved for the position at the Manheim Central school board’s August meeting to succeed Tom McCabe, who stepped down after leading the Lady Barons to the Section 3 crown in the 2011-12 season.
His goal now is to help build on Manheim Central winning’s tradition while inheriting a squad that finished 15-9 after falling to Hempfield in the L-L League playoff quarter-finals and then dropping a loss to Susquehanna Township in Districts.
The philosophy of the Lady Barons’ new head coach, a teacher at Lancaster Catholic High School, is to put a high level of importance on the fundamentals.
"As a teacher, I like to teach the game of basketball first and foremost," Cotchen said. "If you can teach the game of basketball and you can stress the fundamentals, everything else will kinda fall into place. Again, these girls are used to competing and they want to compete. So I hope to teach the game of basketball and stress the fundamentals along the way."
Manheim Central is Cotchen’s second stop as a head coach, having also guided the Ephrata girls for three years from 2001-2004. From there, was the junior high head girls basketball coach at York Catholic when the Fighting Irish won back-to-back-to-back PIAA State Double-A crowns from 2006-2008. For the past two seasons, Cotchen was the junior high girls basketball coach at Solanco. Along the way, Cotchen has picked up things from working with various coaches and players, and he believes that he has grown in his abilities behind the bench.
"I’ve grown certainly being a part of a program that is traditionally successful like York Catholic which won three State championships back-to-back-to-back and playing a small role in that program," he said. "I think you just come away with an understanding of what it takes to compete at that level and you look at how players work hard. Every stop that I was at — Ephrata, York Catholic, Solanco — that seems to be the universal theme. Kids want to play basketball and they want to work hard and those steps along the way were certainly no different. I think you take every opportunity that you have, whether it’s a head coach or whether it’s a junior high coach and you learn a little more of the game, you learn a little more about players and your opponents. The more years you put into it, you learn and you grow.."
Although he wasn’t approved for the MC job until late in the summer, Cotchen, a 1981 Lancaster Catholic grad, had the opportunity to run some open gyms with his players and attend a weekend camp at Millersville University. The Lady Barons graduated six seniors from the 2011-12 team, and they bring back only three seniors this winter — Logan Newcomer, Caroline Novak and Kristin Robeson — so they will have a young squad on the floor. But Cotchen likes what he has seen so far.
"Certainly we think we’ve got some nice players. They’re a good group of kids," Cotchen remarked. "They work hard, they have a good attitude. It looks like we’ll be a young team … We’re going to be certainly a work in progress. Hopefully we’re a better team at the end of the year than we are at the beginning of the year."
As a coach in the Solanco girls program, he had the opportunity to scout Manheim Central in one of its games last year. The work ethic of the Lady Barons’ players was one of the things that stood out for Cotchen.
"What impressed me," Cotchen said, "was just the hustle of the kids — diving for loose balls, running up and down both ends of the court, things like that."
With pre-season workouts for the 2012-13 season having started last Friday, Cotchen no doubt wasted little time talking to his players about playing both ends of the floor in his system.
"I think you have to be consistent in both elements," he said. "We want to be patient on offense and work for a good shot and certainly be aggressive on defense. If you’re aggressive on defense, you can score off your defense. It ultimately comes down to stopping the other team, slowing the other team’s offense down and making your layups and foul shots. That seems to be a universal theme for competitive basketball."
For now, Cotchen and his players are still in the early stages of getting to know each other. But the Lady Barons’ first-year coach is excited for the upcoming season.
"Like I said, I think we’re going to be a work in progress," he said. "I think we have some ideas of what players can do and that kind of thing, but until we put all the pieces together and have some scrimmages and have some games, we’ll learn more that way … I believe they are (buying into the system)." More COTCHEN, page B-3