Dallastown’s Mike Grassel may be one of the younger head boys’ basketball coaches in the York-Adams League, but don’t let his age fool you.
Grassel, who will turn 29 in August, has been coaching at various levels for the past 10 years, including the past three as the junior varsity coach for the Wildcats.
Age, though, is just a number to Grassel, a middle-school teacher in the district. How his young Dallastown team competes this winter will have nothing to do with his age. It will assuredly come down to hard work, dedication and a team-first attitude.
Grassel is taking the reins from former head coach Troy Smeltzer.
While this will be the first time that Grassel, a 2002 graduate of Elizabethtown High School, is the head coach of a program, he made sure to load his staff with plenty of experience. Two of the most notable members of his staff include former Dallastown head coach Royce Gerber, as well as his father, Gene Grassel, who spent many years coaching at Elizabethtown. Both Gerber and Gene Grassel will be volunteer coaches.
We caught up with Grassel recently for this week’s edition of Sports Q&A.
What did you learn about coaching from your dad, Gene?
“A lot. Basically it was a lot of the personal interactions. … that every player is different. It wasn’t as much X’s and O’s as it was the connections with the players on a personal level.”
Do you feel that your age is more advantageous in dealing with high-school-age players?
“Yeah. Honestly to me, age is just a number. I coached while I was at Shippensburg University. I coached while I was in college over at Scotland so I’ve been doing this for almost 10 years. Yeah it gives me an advantage of relating to the guys. That and the time factor. There’s no burnout. I have some fresh eyes to look at things. I’m at a time in my life at this point where I don’t have any kids and my wife’s schedule is flexible, which allows me to go the JV league and the junior high leagues. So I think that age is to my advantage at this point.”
Who, if anybody, stands out to you at this point on the varsity squad this summer?
“That’s a good question. We’re young and we lost eight seniors. Honestly, and this sounds cliche, but it’s going to have to be a whole-team effort. We have eight or nine guys that will contribute, but really we’re going to need each of them to play their role and it’s going to have to be a team effort on both ends. We have two returners that played some varsity time — Mitch Small and Ben Doorn. And then we have a transfer coming back to us from York Catholic — Ethan Sutton. So we have three guys that have some varsity experience, but that said, I don’t think that any of the three started more than five games in their careers.”
Does that mean you team is primarily going to be more defensive- minded?
“We have to have that defensive mindset to compete in our division. We’re not big and losing the eight seniors we lose some guys that were 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6 and Nick Russell, who was 6-2 but played like he was 6-6. So we’re not big, but we’re going to need to play hard and gritty.”
What is your outlook for the rest of Division I?
“It’s always tough. Everybody is losing some talented, college-level players. Our division is tough from top to bottom and there definitely are no off nights. South Western will have (Parker) Bean and (Mike) Duffy back and York High has (Derek) Wilson and Tavon Parker back. Red Lion has Mike Fox back and Central has Corey Hartz. It’s going to be a dogfight.”
What do you plan to change or maintain off of what Coach Smeltzer has done in the past three years?
“We’re going to build off what Coach (Jay) Rexroth and Coach Smeltzer have built here. And I say Jay as well because Jay is the one that brought me into the program. Each year is a new year and obviously we don’t have a true post this year. So you’re going to see a lot of guards out there. But everything else is basically going to stay the same. We’ll change some things up to give our guys the best shot, the best opportunity to win games.”
What’s the biggest thing that you learned about coaching from Rexroth and Smeltzer?
“Planning and being prepared. For practice and for games. They knew their opponents inside and out and I’d like to continue that so I can give the guys the best opportunity to win basketball games. Jay was one of the best at scouting and breaking down teams.”
What is the biggest differences between being a JV and assis tant coach compared to being head coach?
“I’m learning this as I go. Being visible throughout the program. When I was the JV coach I tried to be visible down at the middle school, but now you oversee everything. From our youth program — DYBO — all the way up to the varsity level. So I’m having to make some calls that I didn’t have to make before. When it comes to November through February, it will be the planning and the game tapes, the scouting. The offseason stuff is just more paperwork, emails, phone calls and that sort of stuff.”
Who will be helping you out on the bench this year as assistants?
“I brought in Troy Strayer. He was in our program before and he is a teacher at Red Lion. He was our freshman coach for three years under Jay and he’s going to be my head assistant. My father will be able to come on board as a volunteer assistant, which is neat for me. Royce Gerber, who was the head boys’ coach before Jay, he’ll be helping out. And then my JV coach is Jeff Barkdoll. He has a lot of experience on the girls’ side. He’s also a baseball coach at York Township and he’s the JV coach for the baseball team at Dallastown. So I’m happy to bring him over from the girls’ side.”
As a new head coach I’m sure having guys such as Royce and your dad on the staff must be comforting?
“Yeah. I wanted guys that would be honest with me. You can’t turn down Royce’s experience and my dad. They’ve been around for a while. I welcome them to the staff and their input has already been invaluable throughout the summer.”
– Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.