Christensen gets nod as new WHS boys hoops coach

By on June 24, 2015

 

Warwick’s new boys basketball coach Chris Christensen shares a fist bump with Lititz Elementary third-grader Demarcus Taylor during a camp session last week. (Photo by Mike Shull)

Warwick’s new boys basketball coach Chris Christensen shares a fist bump with Lititz Elementary third-grader Demarcus Taylor during a camp session last week. (Photo by Mike Shull)

To be sure, Chris Christensen has circled Jan. 8, 2016 on his calendar.

As the new head coach for the Warwick boys basketball team, that’s the first time he will be on the opposite bench across from his former squad, Manheim Township.

The same Blue Streaks for whom he starred on the hardwood floor prior to graduating in 2007 and later coached as an assistant for four years.

“To be honest with you, I can’t wait,” said Christensen, who was hired by the Warwick school board last Tuesday, June 16.

The 26-year-old also couldn’t wait for a shot to lead his own program. Having witnessed as an opponent the support that the Warriors receive from their fans and getting positive feedback from different WHS alumni, Christensen saw Warwick as an attractive destination.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “Just from playing in the L-L League and coaching for the last four years, it was always a place that I could see myself at. It’s a community that really pulls for the athletic teams and it’s just a great situation to be in.”

For that matter, Christensen couldn’t have asked for a better situation in which to do his apprenticeship. He was a volunteer assistant under skipper Jim Kreider when Manheim Township won the Section One crown in 2012. Plus, Christensen credits current Blue Streaks boss Dan Relin and former Warwick coach/Blue Streaks’ assistant Brian Brewer among the many role models who helped him achieve his quest.

“I’ve had a lot of good mentors along the way that really did a great job helping me become prepared to move into the head role,” he said. “I owe a lot of credit to Dan Relin. He knew from the time he became coach at Manheim Township that my goal was to become a head coach. And he gave me a lot of opportunities to grow as a coach and basically get as far as I could until taking over my own program. And having Brian Brewer around as a guy that obviously has a ton of coaching experience, he played a huge part in helping me become prepared.”

Christensen replaces Jeff Landis, who stepped down at the end of March after leading the Warwick boys to an 85-99 record over eight seasons. That included a 14-9 mark this past winter when the Warriors advanced to the District Three Quad-A playoffs, suffering a 58-50 loss to Reading in the opening round.

Seven seniors have since graduated from that squad. While Christensen disputes the notion that his Warriors will be a young team, he acknowledges that the returning players are inexperienced in terms of having varsity minutes under their belt.

In that regard, Christensen and his troops are very much alike.

“I’ve said to the guys on the team, ‘You guys have something to prove and so do I,’” he said. “And we’re going to give it all we’ve got. If we can really focus on playing hard for 32 minutes, I think the rest will probably take care of itself – the wins and losses. Obviously, any time you lose seven seniors, we’re going to hit our adversity, but we’re going to overcome whatever bump in the road we come along.”

Asked if feels added pressure to prove himself in his first head coaching role, Christensen said, “I don’t feel any more pressure than I should feel or anything like that. I think it’s better when the guys can relate that we’re all in the same situation. Me having to prove myself a little bit and them also not having much varsity experience, we’re all in the same boat which I think is going to help me build relationships with the players and also with the program and the team as well.”

Through his playing days not only at Manheim Township but at Shenandoah University as a small forward/power forward, and then with the Blue Streaks’ coaching staff, defense always came first. It’s a mantra Christensen plans to continue as the Warriors’ new boss.

“We’re going to try to make teams as uncomfortable as possible on the defensive end,” he remarked, “and really try to turn some defensive turnovers into offensive opportunities. We’ll really start to focus on our defensive principles before anything else. We’re going to try to run an up-tempo style of offense. It’s actually close to what Jeff was running. It will be a motion offense mixed with a little read and react. I’ve talked to (the players) and they’re pretty excited about that.”

While the Warwick boys might be inexperienced in 2015-16, Christensen doesn’t intend to concede anything to their opponents.

“There are certain Section One teams that bringing a lot of guys back and they have some very talented players,” he said. “Like I told our guys, we all wake up in the morning and put our socks and shoes and shirts on the same way and nobody is bigger than us. If we take care of what we need to do in the off-season by improving individually, that will definitely take our team to a new level, and as long as we’re playing hard for 32 minutes, I think we can compete with anybody.”

Manheim Township included. And there certainly won’t be any shortage of energy when the two teams meet in an early-January showdown next year.

“Dan and I have talked about it a little bit and I know he’s just as excited as I am,” Christensen said. “It’s going to be a cool thing. I know the guys are excited too. I’ve kinda experienced what it’s like for somebody because Dan coached at Hempfield for 14 years and then he came over with Manheim Township and I got to see what it was like for him. I know if there were two games a year, he was always excited for those and I’m sure I’ll be the exact same way.”

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