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Lady Barons welcome McCabe as new coach
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
For Tom McCabe, the timing was never right.
Until now, that is.
While serving as an assistant for 25 years in various high school basketball programs, he had opportunities to step in as the head coach. But with young children still at home, McCabe passed.
Then in April, the Manheim Central girls position became available with six-year coach Jason Coletti resigning to lead the Ephrata High School boys.
This time, McCabe applied, and at Manheim Central school board’s June 15 meeting, he was approved as the Lady Barons’ new boss.
"I’ve been wanting to be a head coach for a long, long time … I looked at my wife (Robin) and said, ‘There’s a girls job here at Manheim Central. I’d love to take it.’ And she basically said, ‘Hey, that’s good. Get out of my house,’" McCabe laughed.
The fit was right for both McCabe and Manheim Central. The 49-year-old McCabe has been a special education teacher at Manheim Central High School for nearly 30 years. And with his daughter, Megan, now going to Kutztown University and his son, Patrick, a Cedar Crest junior who gave up basketball in the last year or two to focus on baseball, the time was right.
Prior to going through the process, he also talked to several of the Lady Barons’ returning players, and that added to his motivation.
"Heck, I was going to visit these kids in AP classes and stuff like that," McCabe recalled. "I said, ‘Man, these are not only good athletes, they’re good students (and) good people.’ I’m thinking, ‘This is the kind of group that I want to be around,’ so I’m really excited."
He is certainly excited to implement the ideas that he has learned from his mentors over the years. McCabe had two tours of duty as a Lebanon boys assistant under John Barnhart, the first of those starting in 1984-85. In between, he was a Palmyra boys assistant on Ron Berman’s staff.
"I’ve worked for some great head coaches," McCabe said, "and I’ve pulled something from each one of (them)."
Another one was Kyle DeGregorio, with whom he worked on the Manheim Central boys’ staff during the Jeff Smoker era in the mid-90’s. DeGregorio stepped down seven games into the 1997-98 season, and McCabe would have been a candidate to succeed him. But his son was born around that time, and Matt Reber stepped into the position.
"Family-wise, (being a head coach) just wasn’t working," McCabe said. "But it was hard because that was a great group of guys … I learned a lot of really good X’s and O’s from (DeGregorio)."
From there, McCabe headed to Cedar Crest, where he and his close friend Todd Scipioni both interviewed for the head girls position. Scipioni got the job and hired McCabe as his varsity assistant. Together, they helped to lead the Lady Falcons to the PIAA Eastern finals in the 2003-04 season.
While in Cornwall, McCabe also worked with Rick Dissinger on the Cedar Crest boys staff.
"Rick Dissinger is just an amazing organizer and an amazing school spirit guy," McCabe said. "It’s hard to outwork a guy like that."
Current Manheim Central boys head coach Chris Sherwood is a hard-working guy in his own right, and McCabe served as his eighth-grade coach last year. It was ironic in that Sherwood played under McCabe during his high school days at Palmyra.
"It’s funny … the last three (head coaches at Manheim Central) all played for me at one time," McCabe said. "Jason Colletti played for me at Lebanon and Troy Krall played for me at Lebanon. And I was just thrilled to be on Chris’ staff as an eighth-grade boys coach and I had a great time with that."
McCabe also expects to have a great time with the Manheim Central girls team that he is inheriting. The Lady Barons bring everyone back from the squad that went 13-12 in 2010-11 and advanced to the L-L League and District Three Triple-A playoffs, including leading scorers Maddy Novak (12.2 ppg) and Renee Wiegand (11.7 ppg) and top 3-point shooter Morgan Mummau (21).
McCabe has hired Mark Silcox to be his JV/varsity assistant coach. The two friends coached against one another when McCabe and Silcox were the JV coaches at Lebanon and Warwick, respectively.
Last week, they conducted team camp and that was an excellent opportunity for the players to become acquainted with their new head coach and vice versa.
"(We were) just introducing some of the things we’d like to do," McCabe said. "And one thing I realized (last) week is that these guys are great kids, strong athletes. But we have a lot of work to do as far as skill and things like that — just fundamental work."
During the past winter, he didn’t know anything about the varsity team because of his responsibilities with the Barons’ eighth-grade boys. But he occasionally got a glimpse of the Central girls’ eighth-graders after his own team’s workouts, and he was impressed.
"I thought, ‘Man, these girls are fast (and) they’re strong,’" McCabe recalled. "Not only the seniors, which is a real special group, but the ninth graders-to-be, that’s a nice group. So I think they’re going to have athletes for some time."
That includes the Lady Barons’ 2011-12 team. McCabe is excited to see the girls play in the Lower Dauphin summer league, against the likes of Trinity and others. And his girls are going to do speed workouts with the Barons’ football team. But although McCabe acknowledges that he still has a lot to learn about his players and Section Three, the Lady Barons’ boss believes there are a lot of positives about his squad.
"Just seeing the kids in isolated drills and some of the things we did (last) week, I think we have the athleticism and the depth to pressure some people defensively," McCabe said. "They seem to like each other and sometimes that’s half the battle." More McCABE, page B-6