By Jeff Nations
Strasburg athletics director Matt Hiserman faced a real quandary during this past school year.
Hiserman knew that longtime boys basketball coach Millson French was planning to retire after 39 years leading the program, a move certain to leave a gaping hole in Strasburg's athletic department. The issue was two-fold, really -- how do you replace a legendary coach, and who would want to, anyway?
Hiserman thought he had the answer, and on Monday the school agreed by naming Hiserman as the new varsity boys basketball coach. Hiserman is ready for the challenge, but knows he really can't "replace" a beloved coach like French.
"He built the program for the last 39 years," Hiserman said. "Anytime you step in and try to fill somebody's shoes like that, it's a daunting task."
One reason Hiserman is optimistic that he can at least carry on French's winning legacy is the knowledge he's picked up from two great teachers of the game -- French, and his own father, Richard Hiserman.
Matt Hiserman learned to play the game from his father, the longtime boys basketball coach at Lewis County in West Virginia. After a four-year collegiate career at West Virginia Wesleyan, Matt Hiserman landed a job at Strasburg and the second phase of his basketball education began under French.
"He's taught me a lot over the years," Hiserman said. "Since 1998-99 when I first came here, I've learned a lot from him."
Hiserman has served as an assistant basketball coach at Strasburg since the 1998-1999 school year, having at various times been the head middle school and junior varsity coach as well as a varsity assistant. He's also been the head junior varsity girls basketball coach and the head cross country coach at Strasburg.
With that much continuity, don't expect wholesale changes for the Rams under Hiserman's watch.
"There may be some minor tweaks here and there," Hiserman said. "Obviously when you have someone who had as much success as coach French did, you don't change too much."
Hiserman can also count on having his two best teachers nearby. His parents have recently moved to Strasburg, and French is always available as a sounding board.
Also on Monday, Strasburg announced the hiring of Mike Wood as the new varsity wrestling coach. Wood replaces Trey Kirkland, who resigned after two years coaching the Rams.
Wood, who served the past three seasons as an assistant coach at Riverheads High School, has plenty of coaching experience. Prior to coaching at Riverheads, Wood was a wrestling coach for 20 years in Pennsylvania. He served as head coach at Derry High School in Pennsylvania from 2001-2010, where his teams accumulated a dual record of 100-55 and he finished ranked second in school history in wins.
"His coaching history and the reputation of wrestling in Pennsylvania, it's top-notch," Hiserman said. "Obviously with his background and what he'd done as a coach, he was the top choice. I think he'll do great things for our program."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>