Pitt-Greensburg basketball coaches adjust to surroundings, teams
One or the other has been to Primanti's and perused Westmoreland Mall, trekked up and down Route 30 and passed the courthouse.
But comfort with their new surroundings comes in second to the adjustments they have made with their basketball teams at Pitt-Greensburg.
Both out-of-towners, Brody Jackson and Hayley Schaetzle are a quarter of the way into their rookie seasons as coaches of the men's and women's programs. And both seem to feel much more at home than when they arrived in October.
It was like going off to college again for each, but the college experience still is about time management and learning.
“For sure … we've grown leaps and bounds since Oct. 15,” said Jackson, 32, a native of Akron, Ohio. “It's been neat to watch our guys grow as a team. It's a process, and we are getting there. Our guys are becoming more comfortable with one another.”
Schaetzle, 26, who moved here from New York after serving as women's basketball director of operations at Buffalo, is a native of Chico, Calif. She said of her new town: “It has pretty much been all basketball since we got here. However, it is very nice to have so many options in Greensburg. Not having to driver farther than 10 minutes for any needs is a win-win.”
Jackson and Schaetzle came to UPG in the thick of stormy times: the firing of previous coaches Sean Strickland and Erin Eaton, who had guided the programs for the previous seven years. But neither Jackson nor Schaetzle concerned themselves with past circumstances of which they had no dealings, instead starting fresh with new principles and philosophies.
“I walked into a brand-new team,” said Schaetzle, who also coached at Penn State Behrend. “But everybody was onboard. No one is talking about the past.”
Obviously, they did not recruit any of their players. Jackson said he Googled his players' names when he got the job.
“It was hard,” Jackson said of the transition. “But we are past that point. Time heals all wounds. Where we go from here, that is what we're focused on. We have a good group of kids, and they are not paying attention to last year.”
Jackson was an assistant for six seasons at Mt. Union.
The UPG men finished 1-24 last season but won their second game of this season, 79-69 over Penn State Fayette, to rekindle a competitive fire that had been reduced to a flicker. The Bobcats are 3-5 (2-3 AMCC) and have a 2-2 mark at home after going 0-10 at Chambers Hall last season.
Just two years ago, the men reached the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time.
The women's team, meantime, has started slowly. They are 1-10 (1-4 conference) and have not won a game on the road (0-4). The Bobcats are giving up more than 68 points a game.
UPG made the AMCC playoffs in six of seven seasons under Eaton, and led the conference last year with a 3.58 GPA.
“Our girls have been full-speed ahead with the process,” Schaetzle said. “We're not where we want to be in the process yet in terms of playing our best basketball, but we're coming together.”
Schaetzle preaches defense, but A's and B's mean more than zones and presses.
“I want to put character and academics before basketball,” she said.
Jackson's nucleus includes senior guard Joe Mancini, junior Kyle Bondi and sophomores Jay Grubb and Cody Spaid. Freshman Cam Seigfreid (Penn-Trafford) has been a key scorer.
The Bobcats also feature 7-foot sophomore Nate Burt, who has been a shot-blocking presence.
Jackson's focus has centered on how to close out games.
“To be in games, you have to defend really well in the last five minutes,” Jackson said. “The last couple possessions are critical. Our guys are understanding that. All of our guys have been unbelievable. They want to improve.”
Both coaches also are learning where to recruit in the WPIAL. Jackson's roster has seven players from District 7.
“It's interesting to me how much the teams out here practice,” Jackson said. “That's a little different than what we saw in Ohio.”
Schaetzle has five WPIAL players, including Burrell product Kelsey Oddis, who is averaging 18.6 points and 10.5 rebounds. The senior, along with sophomore guard Colleen Murphy, helped the coach's adjustment, Schaetlze said.
“They have done an outstanding job,” she said. “We have six freshmen, so that is six players who have not used a shot clock and have not played at this level.”
Both coaches moved into off-campus apartments after staying on campus in the beginning.
Jackson's bachelor pad is near Primanti's, where he can stop to watch sports when he has free time — although, his Cleveland Browns probably won't be on unless they're playing the Steelers.
“I've been razzed a lot about that,” said Jackson, whose brother, Zac, is a sportswriter who covers the Browns for The Athletic. “I watch what I say.”
Schaetzle lives with her husband about five minutes from campus.
The holiday break will allow Jackson and Schaetzle time to travel home to see family and friends.
The men resume play Dec. 29 against Illinois College at the McDonald's Holiday Tournament in Bluffton, Ohio. The women don't play again until Dec. 31 when they host Chatham at Chambers Hall.