When the coronavirus pandemic ended the high school basketball season in March, neither Gary Grozier nor Justin Beiter expected to be head coaches in the Danville School District.
Grozier — after a long coaching career — decided to take the 2019-2020 season off.
“I missed it; I wanted to get back in it,” Grozier said. “I didn’t think I was going to be a head coach.”
Beiter worked as a journalist at Danville’s last girls game of the season — a state playoff loss to Northern Lebanon.
“Walking off the court on March 11, I didn’t think I would be the coach there,” Beiter said.
However, the Danville School Board voted 9-0 last week to hire both to run the basketball programs for the Ironmen. Both bring experience to the Danville bench.
After starting the boys basketball program at the Abraxas — a Youth and Family Facility in Northwestern Pa., Grozier was head boys coach at Benton from 1992 to 1998 where he won the school’s first District 4 title. Since that time, Grozier has spent time as an assistant coach with the East Stroudsburg South boys program and as an assistant with Steve Moser in the Danville girls program, before a stint as an assistant with Chris Snyder at Central Columbia.
Grozier inherits a boys team that has won three straight division titles in the Heartland Athletic Conference, and is just a year removed from a District 4 Class 4A title.
“I’d be naive to say there isn’t any pressure,” said Grozier, who added that Matt Diltz and Bryan James will return to the bench as assistants. “Danville boys basketball has all kinds of expectations and pressure, but pressure creates diamonds. It’s good to have expectations. I’ve been on both ends of it. They hadn’t won a game at Benton when I took over, and by the end, we were district champions. When I coached with Steve and Chris, both of those programs always have high expectations.”
Beiter spent time as the Northwest girls coach and the Berwick boys coach, but it was a conversation with a some football players he coached at Muncy that got him feeling the coaching bug once again.
“They were very positive about the time I spent as their coach; I just thought I should give it one last shot,” Beiter said.
So he put his hat in the ring for the Danville girls job to replace Moser, who just capped his career with a HAC-I title, a Heartland Athletic Conference Tournament title and the District 4 Class 4A title. Moser guided the girls team to eight 20-win season in the last 10 years, along with eight PIAA playoff appearances.
“I couldn’t think of a better school district to coach in. Steve and (assistant coach) Brynn (Harding) left a foundation for the program,” Beiter said. “I don’t feel any pressure at all. I want to create a environment that fosters teaching and learning.”
Both are unsure when they will get together with their teams. Grozier is probably a step ahead of Beiter in that aspect. Grozier — a guidance counselor in the Danville High School — has the advantage of already having some sort of relationship with each of his players.
“I’ve spent a lot of time over the last week watching HUDL, and watching a lot of game film,” Grozier said. “I have a knowledge of all of the kids and already have a relationship with some of them, that certainly gives me a leg up.”
Beiter — an elementary school gym teacher in the Bloomsburg School District — is unsure when he’s going to get started, but he can’t wait.
“I’m not sure when we’ll get in the gym, but I can’t wait to get to know my team,” Beiter said. “There is going to be a lot of new faces — the Danville girls lost four starters to graduation — so we’re going to need that time in the gym.”