By RYAN VANDERSLOOT
There’s little question that Darrell Wildasin is one of the most successful high school boys’ basketball coaches in the York-Adams area.
With nearly 300 career victories at Spring Grove, Susquehannock and Delone Catholic under his belt, a Wildasin-coached team is successful more often than not.
If you would have asked him 10 or 15 years ago if he would have any interest in coaching a girls’ squad, the answer would have been an emphatic “no.”
The veteran coach has clearly softened his stance over the past few of years. In fact, it was just over a year ago that he started to coach AAU basketball for the York Thunder, a girls’ team that featured Delone Catholic standout Maddie Comly.
And he’s back at it again this summer, doing what he loves — coaching. And soon enough, Wildasin will get the chance to again coach a high school team. Only this time it will be a girls’ program. He’s been hired to take over the reins from Jon Shultz as the head coach at West York High School.
We caught up with Wildasin for this edition of Sports Q&A:
Q: How did you find out about the West York position?
A: “When I heard that it was open, I was intrigued. But I still wasn’t quite sure if it’s what I wanted to do or not. I got a couple calls from some parents that encouraged me to apply and it’s always nice when you know somebody. I’ve been different places, but I’ve never coached at West York. And, yeah, I know people in there but not like that would make me feel real, real comfortable to just jump right on it. Once I got those phone calls, I was encouraged by it and went for it.”
Q: What was the timeline like for the whole process?
A: “The process went pretty quick. I applied online and then a couple days later I emailed to ask what the timeline was and just like that they told me when the interview was. I don’t know if I was late in applying or what, but it kind of happened pretty quick from that point.”
Q: When were you informed you were the one?
A: “I was informed (informally) a couple weeks ago, but I wasn’t recommended to the board and accepted until (Tuesday). And that’s how it usually goes. You get recommended and then you wait, shake some hands and kiss babies for a while, but you have to wait for the process to play out.”
Q: How do you feel about the opportunity to coach a girls’ team this fall?
A: “I’m as enthusiastic now as I was 30 years ago when I started coaching. I love challenges as much as the next guy and I’m excited about it.”
Q: What have been your initial thoughts about the status of the program?
A: “With coaching AAU basketball the past couple of years, I have been around to watch just about every girl in the county play. But I was recruiting girls to play, so I had seen them play a couple times last year, so I’m familiar with the talent level that they have. I know that I have the talent with this group right here that I can compete for a county championship. And that’s not to say that we’re going to win it, I’m just saying that we have a chance to compete for it. And if I can make the right decisions and do some of the things that need to be done and if (the girls) grasp some of the things that we’re going to be doing, then I think we’ll have as good a chance as anybody.”
Q: Do you feel any pressure in regards to the high expectations surrounding the club heading into next season?
A: “I’ve been in district championship games, I’ve been to the second round of states. So nobody is going to put any pressure on me that I won’t already put on myself. I put a lot of pressure on myself to figure out what needs to be done.”
Q: I know you’re mainly known as a boys’ basketball coach, but I see you’ve had some experience with girls’ AAU teams. How long have you been doing that?
A: “Just last year. I had last year’s team and I have another team this year and, to be honest with you, last year I just had a team that was extremely talented and extremely high-level. We were like 35-11 and I had a great group of girls and my wife kept telling me that I’ll never get a group of girls like this. And I have a couple of the girls back, like Maddie Comly from Delone. And she’s back and she told me, ‘Coach, I want to do it again. I don’t want to go anywhere else, I want to play for you.’ So I said, ‘Gosh, Maddie, I’m going to have to do a lot of recruiting.’ So I went to work and recruited a team and, we’re not as talented, but boy are we fun to watch. We share the ball and play together. We’re like 18-5. We don’t play at quite the level we played at last year, but we play at a good level. They play the way I’ve taught them to play.”
Q: Did you ever think you’d be coaching a girls’ basketball team instead of the boys?
A: “Well, after (coaching the girls) last year, I kind of got hooked. Now the Delone boys’ job opened up and there were people that wanted me to apply for it. And I thought about it, but my heart just wasn’t in it to go back to the boys. I never thought in a million years that I would coach girls. If you asked me 10-15 years ago I would have said there’s no way. But, I don’t know. There’s just something about it.”
Q: What are the biggest differences between coaching boys and girls?
A: “You have to work hard, and that’s the same for boys and girls, but you have to have fun too. And girls are little different than guys in that regard. I think you have to lighten up a little bit and encourage and go through all that stuff and it’s the same, but you have to have a few lighter moments here and there. You have to laugh with your kids. You coach them up, but you have to have some fun and you have to make it fun. So you can’t be screaming and hollering. They’re going to make mistakes, because everybody makes mistakes. But if the effort is there, you just move on.”
Q: Have you had a chance to talk to the girls yet and, if so, what was discussed?
A: “Oh, yeah. They’ve been playing summer league games since I found out and I’ve talked to them. I just talk to them about things that they did and they have a lot of questions. Obviously they know that this could be a special year so I would tell them things that I wanted to try to do and implement and things like that. So it’s been kind of nice.”
Q: Generally speaking, what differences will we see from a Darrell Wildasin-coached West York team vs. what we’ve seen under Jon Shultz?
A: “I’ll be honest. I don’t know a whole lot about Coach Shultz. I saw his team play once or twice last year, but I was not focused on what he was doing. So I don’t know his style, but from what I can gather I know he did a lot of 1-2-2 zone back into man. I think that maybe his man-to-man wasn’t as aggressive as mine will be, but I see a lot of the things that the girls are doing and they’re running Coach Shultz’s stuff right now. So I’m looking and trying to learn and I’ve seen a couple of things that I like that they do and we might continue to keep doing some of that. But the philosophy of how to defend in the man-to-man will be different. My style is probably a little more assertive, a little more aggressive. And the other thing that I noticed is that they basically played six kids last year and I like to play a lot more than that. I’ll play like eight to 10 kids. And another thing I’ve seen is that there is a lot more talent than just those five returning starters and I will utilize that.”
Q: What are your expectations for the squad come this winter?
A: “Well I know that we have some kids coming up from the JV team that can score the basketball, in addition to what we already have at the varsity level. I think that if you put it all together you’re going to have a lot more balanced scoring. And not that those two — Kari Lankford and Emily Wood — aren’t going to lead us in scoring, and they will, but we have to have other people to step up and, when we swing it and they’re open, they have to be able to knock it down. And they will.”
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.