By STEVE HEISER
York Catholic has a new head boys’ varsity basketball coach.
But it’s a familiar name to Fighting Irish fans.
Ryan Luckman, 33, was hired on Thursday. He replaces Joe Keesey, who was not rehired last month after six seasons with the Irish.
Luckman is a 1999 graduate of York Catholic High School and brings 10 years of coaching experience with him, including five years of head coaching experience at the varsity boys level with Spring Grove High School. He most recently served as York Catholic’s seventh-and-eighth-grade girls’ basketball coach. He also has spent the last nine years coaching the York Catholic varsity girls’ soccer program.
“Ever since (former York Catholic head coach) Jim Senft hired me out of college to help out with the program, it’s been a dream of mine to be the head boys’ varsity basketball coach at York Catholic,” Luckman said.
Luckman played under coach Mike Keesey and Senft while at York Catholic. Mike Keesey is Joe Keesey’s brother. Mike Keesey was a longtime Irish head coach who led York Catholic to two of its four state boys’ basketball championships before giving up the job. He was reportedly interested in returning as the York Catholic head coach next season.
Because of the strong tradition of basketball excellence at York Catholic, Luckman admitted he was surprised to get the job.
“I know that the name York Catholic carries a lot of weight,” Luckman said. “I don’t know of the other applicants other than coach (Mike) Keesey, but I know there had to be a lot of other great applicants, so it was a surprise.”
Strong player: Luckman was a four-year starter at York Catholic and one of the top players in the York-Adams League. He also played for four years at the collegiate level at NCAA Division II Bloomsburg University, where he was a two-year starter.
Luckman has taught science at York Catholic High School for nine years. He’s hoping the fact that he is teaching in the school where he is coaching will help him. He didn’t have that luxury when he coached at Spring Grove. The Rockets struggled during his tenure there.
“I have to put what I learned (at Spring Grove) into practice,” he said. “I walked out understanding the mistakes that were made. I wasn’t inside to see the kids daily. So here I will see the kids daily, so it will be a little different. Hopefully it will help.”
Luckman said he will continue the York Catholic tradition of strong man-to-man defense and a motion offense. He’s also going to emphasize getting the ball into the paint. First, however, he plans to assess where the program is at.
“I haven’t been part of the (boys’ varsity) program for six years,” he said. “I don’t have an intimate knowledge of where we are, so I have to make an assessment of where we’re at.”
Luckman said he saw just two varsity boys’ games a season ago, but he said York Catholic should return four players with starting experience. The Irish finished with a 10-5 York-Adams League record last season and an 11-12 overall mark.
Luckman said his goals with the Irish are to “get better every day.” He also hopes the program can soon return to regularly winning league, District 3 and even state championships. The Irish boys have won 11 District 3 titles, the last coming in 2007.
“I don’t think the York Catholic goals will ever change,” he said.
Luckman also said he applied for the York Catholic job six years ago, at age 27, when Joe Keesey was hired. He said he isn’t sure what made the difference this time in his getting the position.
“Maybe having head coaching experience in basketball was the difference, but I really don’t know,” he said.
Luckman, who is single, also said he plans to continue as the girls’ soccer head coach in the fall. He believes he can adequately handle the time needs of both coaching positions, as well as teaching.
Unanimous pick of search committee: According to a York Catholic news release, Luckman was a unanimous recommendation of the search committee. Members of the selection committee included Bob Rudisill, a longtime area basketball coach; Art Full, school board member; Brad Hayek, assistant athletic director; Father Jonathan Sawicki, school chaplain; and Russell Greenholt, assistant superintendent of the Conewago Valley School District.
That search committee did not include Luckman’s father, Rick, who is York Catholic’s athletic director.
Joe Keesey’s teams compiled an overall mark of 72-74 in his six seasons at the helm. The Fighting Irish were 57-31 in league games (contests against York-Adams Division III and Division IV opponents).
“I was fired,” Joe Keesey said last month. “I was told my leadership and communication weren’t good enough. I thought we had a good season this past year. We didn’t have much experience coming back (two players with varsity experience), and we did pretty well.”
— Reach Steve Heiser at email@example.com.