Cieniewicz named new Warwick girls hoops coach

By on June 20, 2018
Danny  Cieniewicz,  a  former  assistant  for  the  Schuylkill  Valley  boys and Wyomissing girls basketball teams, will take over as the Warwick head girls basketball coach, replacing Janelle Garber. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Danny Cieniewicz, a former assistant for the Schuylkill Valley boys and Wyomissing girls basketball teams, will take over as the Warwick head girls basketball coach, replacing Janelle Garber. Photo by Missi Mortimer

For a long time, Danny Cieniewicz has had a passion for coaching.

Its roots go back to his own basketball playing days while attending Schuylkill Valley High School.

“High school basketball was the most positive experience for me in high school,” he said.

Cieniewicz, who will celebrate his 28th birthday in September, is now hoping to provide that same type of enjoyment for Warwick’s girls basketball players.

On Tuesday night at Warwick’s school board meeting, Cieniewicz was approved to become the Lady Warriors’ new coach, replacing Janelle Garber, who stepped down in April.

“That’s the ultimate goal,” he remarked, “is to make sure these kids are looking back positively on it — whether it be a one-year or four-year experience, however many years that they’ve decided to play basketball.”

This will be Cieniewicz’s first head coaching role after spending the previous four years as an assistant on the Wyomissing girls basketball team under Michael Mitchell. This past winter, the Lady Spartans won their Section championship for the fourth straight year and advanced to the District Three 4A semi-finals, eventually placing fourth, and qualified for States while finishing 21-6 overall. Prior to that, he coached four years at his alma mater while also playing football as a tight end at Albright College.

When the Warwick job opened, Cieniewicz reached out to some of his connections about the program and even spoke a little bit with Garber.

All he heard was positive reviews.

“It’s exciting. They all talked about how great the kids are and the administration is very good,” Cieniewicz said. “Everyone’s been very supportive. I’ve been able to watch some of the film too. It’s a great group of girls off the court from everything I hear, but on the court, they’re scrappy and they hustle. Obviously, there’s things to work on, but it seems like a group that has a lot of potential.”

Warwick also did its homework on Cieniewicz, and Athletic Director Ryan Landis said that the recommendations they received were “off the charts.”

“You can get anything from a piece of paper,” Landis said, “but when I made some phone calls and spoke with several different people that have interacted with him in various different forms or different roles, it became obvious that we may have hit the jackpot with this one.”

Cieniewicz was part of a “great pool of candidates” that Warwick had to choose from, according to Landis.

“We had several options that we were comfortable with, but Danny just stood out to be a perfect fit. We’re excited about his enthusiasm. He’s been a part of a program most recently that was able to take a young team, a young group of girls and really develop them to the point of having the successes. They’ve won four straight titles at Wyomissing. That’s not all about wins and losses, but it does seem like he’s played a pretty big role in rebuilding a program and taking that program to the next step.”

A financial advisor in Shillington, Cieniewicz is planning to settle down in Lititz, where his fiance, Carly, has recently purchased a home.

“I’m just getting familiar with the area,” he said, “and I’ve been walking around the town a lot just kinda taking everything in.”

Cieniewicz has also been trying to take in as much as he can about the team he will be leading. This past winter, the Warwick girls — playing with a roster which included no seniors and eight freshmen —finished 4-17 overall. But they showed solid improvement down the stretch. In their final four games, Warwick beat McCaskey and Conestoga Valley, while losing by just one point to Hempfield.

“There were a lot of games that were very, very close,” Cieniewicz said. “I don’t know if the win total tells the whole story. The fact that everybody is coming back — or at least is projected to come back — is definitely an encouraging sign and something that I’m looking forward to this summer.”

His coaching style is one in which Cieniewicz likes to spread the floor and play unselfish on offense, while taking away easy looks from opponents at the defensive end of the floor.

“That’s really one of the big things that I like to see is being able to finish around the rim,” he remarked. “That’s going to be a big focal point in the summer time and during the winter months. But also, (my goal is) really just taking the best shot. I mean, working the ball and passing up a good shot for a better shot is what I like to see. If you take high-percentage shots over the course of the game, chances are good you’re going to be happy with the outcome. Defensively, it’s making the opponents on offense really have to work. And if they’re going to get an inside shot, it’s going to be contested and it’s going to be a tough shot.”

Although the Lady Warriors haven’t been to the playoffs since the 2011-12 season, Cieniewicz said that wasn’t a concern before applying for the job.

“Not at all,” he commented. “It’s not so much about the wins and losses. It’s about seeing the improvement. From what I got speaking with coach Garber, the wins and losses didn’t really tell the story of last year. Really, it’s about making sure that we’re reaching our full potential, and I know certain people will judge however they want to judge it. But when I look back and when my staff looks back, we want to be able to make the determination, as well as the girls, and say that we got the most out of this team. That’s what I want everyone collectively to say, and whether that’s playoffs or not is to be determined. But I’m excited about the talent.”

One of the strengths Cieniewicz believes he brings is his knowledge of the game from being around it a number of years. But Warwick’s new head coach is also confident about what he has learned from his mentors over the years.

“I’ve had some very supportive people in my life who have done a great job teaching me different aspects of stuff on the court and off the court, certainly,” Cieniewicz said. “More than that, though, I think (a strength of mine) is being able to relate to the players and being able to really inspire them to be the best version of themselves as basketball players and as people. It’s being able to get them to play their best. That’s what the coaches I’ve played for and coached under have been able to do. They’ve inspired kids to play above their potential. And that’s really what my goal is going to be and obviously to be patient. The team is still young — there are going to be some seniors this year, which is certainly encouraging. But the fact that the team is still young, there’s going to be some growing pains and I do expect that. But being patient is key and just making sure that at the end of the day, we’re maximizing our potential.”

His passion for the job is already evident.

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