Adam Gearhart has seen the revolving door of girls’ varsity basketball coaches at Bellefonte High School firsthand.
In his four seasons with the program, he’s served as an assistant under three different head coaches.
So when the position became open this fall, Gearhart hoped he could slow the amount of change and the Bellefonte Area School Board agreed.
Gearhart was confirmed as the team’s head coach Tuesday, replacing Brett Leister, who resigned after one season with the program.
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Gearhart served as the junior varsity coach under Leister last season. The previous two seasons he was junior high head coach under Roger Herto and he also served as a JV coach for Darin Hazel, who is now the Red Raider boys’ head coach.
Gearhart, a father of three including a one-month old, said he had a long talk with his wife Erin before applying for the job, but it was some other kids that helped influence his decision.
“What it came down to was the players,” Gearhart said. “I’m obviously the third coach in four years and actually the fourth in five years depending on how you want to look at it since I’ve been there. These are good girls and they need some stability. That’s what I could really bring to this — the stability. I’m someone that’s worked with the whole program up-and-down and someone that has been with them the last four years. Hopefully, I’m around for well more than four more.”
He inherits a program that made huge strides last winter.
After winning just seven games over the previous two seasons combined, the Lady Raiders went 12-9 and advanced to the District 6 Class AAA playoffs before falling 30-27 against Ligonier Valley.
“It was huge,” Gearhart said of the season. “The girls really bought in last year. To see that if they put in the work and put in the preparation, the results they could get.
“Coach Leister was great at preparation and with the girls everything started clicking for them,” he added. “We started slow around .500 and they started to realize if they did what we were asking them to do they could be successful. And once the success started coming, the confidence came.”
He’ll have several of those players back from that squad. He loses two senior starters, but returns five who have started varsity games and eight who have varsity experience.
“I’m not old Father Hubbard here,” Gearhart said with a chuckle. “The cupboard’s not bare. I’m taking over a pretty decent team.”
Gearhart said the three coaches that he’s served under certainly will impact his style with his players on and off the court.
“I got a lot from them,” he said of his predecessors. “They were three really good coaches that I worked for. If they all show up at a game, they all are going to see little bits of their programs out on the floor. I am going to be taking bits from all three of them — Coach Hazel’s knowledge of the game, Coach Herto’s fundamentals and Coach Leister’s preparation. They will see that.”
Gearhart brings his own perspective, too. The 1993 graduate of Philipsburg-Osceola played point guard for the Mounties and learned much of the game from that key spot.
“I sort of played out of position coming up through,” Gearhart said. “I was probably more of a No. 2 guard having to play the point. I think that helped me because you had to see the whole floor as a point guard. Now you have to see it as a coach. I think if I had played other positions it would make it a little more difficult.”
Gearhart said his big concern now are putting together a staff before practice opens in late November. Ironically, the Lady Raiders will open the season at the Mifflin County Tip Off Tournament where they could face the host Lady Huskies, who are led by Herto.