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Schlosser decides its time to step down

Elizabethtown coach Bob Schlosser finished with 364 wins in 27 years on the Blue Jays' sideline.
Elizabethtown athletics photo

It was not that long ago that Elizabethtown was one of the dominant men’s basketball programs in the region, and its coach, Bob Schlosser, synonymous with winning.

The basketball landscape, however, is changing as quickly as much of the rest of the world around us. The Blue Jays, who played to a .600 winning percentage under Schlosser from his arrival in 1990 through 2011, posted a paltry .274 mark from then until now. Thus it was that Schlosser, on Jan. 31, announced he would retire at the end of the season.

“It’s always a combination of things,” Schlosser said, “but, you know, we haven’t been winning. It’s one thing to have one or two bad years, but we’ve had four or five. I don’t see that changing.

“I have all part-time assistants, and I have other part-time responsibilities (Schlosser also is an associate athletic director at E’town). I don’t think that was fixable in the position I’m in. The losing really eats at you. It was affecting me in a lot of different ways. I’m still an effective teacher of the game, but it’s a grind.”

Perhaps that is because Schlosser put so much of himself into coaching basketball. His four conference coach-of-the-year awards, his three Commonwealth Conference championships and E’town’s appearance in the 2002 NCAA Championship Game attest to that. A better look at Schlosser, however, comes from a former pupil, Andy Burkholder, who played for Schlosser and was his assistant on that NCAA runner-up.

“The way he goes about practice, and practice planning,” Burkholder recalled. “He’s meticulous. Everything was always typed out to the line. He was intense, but not only intense; his desire to compete really rubbed off on everyone.”

Burkholder is in his second year as head coach at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He could not come to Schlosser’s final game Saturday, when a large contingent of former Blue Jays came to see their former coach off. Instead he came to E’town’s game last Wednesday against Catholic.

“He drove six hours (Wednesday) to come and see me,” Schlosser said, “then drove six hours home. That speaks volumes.”

Burkholder would have loved to see his alma mater upset a Cardinals team heading into postseason play. That was never really in danger of happening, but Burkholder still recognized the old intensity.

“They competed till the buzzer went,” Burkholder said. “I even think he stared down one of the officials as the game was ending.”

Schlosser said he has received many calls and e-mails from former players, and Burkholder said he has spoken to several of them, and knows they are all showing their appreciation for Schlosser – belatedly, for some.

“I know he’s received some e-mails from players, basically saying, ‘I know I wasn’t always the best or easiest guy to coach, but I get it now.’”

As tough as he may have been on some players, Schlosser was undoubtedly effective. The Blue Jays went 19-7 in his third year and earned an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. That started a run of 18 years in which the Blue Jays made their conference tournament 15 times and had just two losing seasons.

That changed at the beginning of the current decade. Since a 16-8 season in 2010-2011, E’town has been no better than 8-16.

“I’ve had a pretty good run,” Schlosser said. “I’ve had my day in the sun, so to speak. I got a lot of credit for a lot of wins. Now I’m able to say I haven’t gotten it done, and that’s on me. And I’m OK with that.”

Schlosser said one reason for the downturn may be that other coaches are doing a better job connecting with recruits via social media, something he has not embraced.

“I’m an old-school guy,” he said. “I’m not as up on social media, and that falls on my shoulders. Somebody could really turn this around. They’ll be able to recruit in ways I’m just not capable of.”

Schlosser, pressed for a hobby he might indulge in his retirement, listed just one: fly fishing. He said he expects to continue to work “in some capacity.”

“I’m never going to rule out coaching,” he said. “I really still have a passion for teaching the game. I just want to get out of the stress of being a head coach.”

Schlosser named the 2002 NCAA title-game run as his best memory, but because of the camaraderie formed by the team as much as the winning. He takes great pride in the slew of former players who have gone into coaching. His three sons, all of whom went to E’town, all are college assistants. The eldest, Ben, has been his father’s assistant for seven years. Middle son Sam works at Penn State Harrisburg. The youngest, Will, is a graduate assistant at Springfield College, the same position Burkholder once held at the Division III school that churns out sports coaches. He also can point to Rocky Parise at Elizabethtown Area High School, Chris Sattele at Middletown and Brian Schmoyer at York, among may others.

“Our last coaches’ clinic, we had 23 guys who were alumni who were coaching who showed up,” Schlosser said. “That was a positive with recruiting. Those connections are really helpful.”

Road warriors in Commonwealth

Home court was no advantage in the MAC Commonwealth first-round games Monday night. Sam Light’s 32 points and nine rebounds led Lebanon Valley’s men’s team to a 76-66 win at Alvernia, avenging the Dutchmen’s two regular-season losses to the Crusaders. Andy Orr and Marquis Davis chipped in 17 points apiece.

The Dutchmen earned a semifinal matchup at top seed Lycoming Wednesday night. LVC beat the Warriors in Williamsport earlier this season but lost at home to Lycoming 87-54 on Valentine’s Day.

In women’s hoops, Kayla Kline’s double-double propelled Lycoming to a 73-59 win at LVC. Kline and Shelby Mueller scored 18 points apiece. Akilah McFadden added 15. The Warriors will travel to Reading for a semifinal at Albright. The Lions swept Lycoming this season.

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Columnist

Phil Soto-Ortiz

Phil Soto-Ortiz has been a play-by-play sportscaster for basketball, football and lacrosse at Franklin & Marshall College since 2010, and has also called games at Division II St. Anselm College in New Hampshire and at high schools around Connecticut. He writes the annual Centennial College football preview for D3football.com's Kickoff publication and has covered sports for the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News and several dailies and weeklies in Fairfield County, Connecticut. He graduated from Syracuse University, where he called the play-by-play of the women?s basketball team?s games, including their last win over the UConn Huskies.
2014-16 columnist:Ryan Scott
2013-14 columnist: Rob Knox
2012-13 columnist: Pete Barrett
2011-12 columnist: Brian Lester

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