Local coaching legends selected for L-L League Hall of Fame

By on February 17, 2016

Merv Witmer (left) and Dave Althouse chat during the L-L Hall of Fame  ceremony held Friday night at Warwick

A couple of Akron natives had a bit of a reunion Thursday night, Feb. 11, as they were inducted into the Lancaster-Lebanon League Hall of Fame during halftime of the final L-L finals’ game between the girls of Lancaster Catholic and Northern Lebanon High School. The game and the inductions took place at the Warwick High School gym.

Former Warwick basketball coach David Althouse and former Ephrata football and wrestling coach Mervin Witmer were two of the four hall-of-famers, class of 2016. The other two inductees were Tick Hurst, who coached soccer, tennis, baseball and wrestling during a 44-year career at McCaskey, and Harry Frey, who coached girls and boys basketball and boys soccer at his alma mater, Penn Manor.

Witmer is a 1966 graduate of Ephrata High School, taught social studies at his alma mater and coached wrestling from 1975 until 2005. His wrestlers had a dual meet record of 312-167-3. The Mounts won four Lancaster-Lebanon League section titles, two L-L Tournament titles, three sectional titles and a District Three tournament title. He’s in three wrestling halls of fame: District Three, Pennsylvania and the national organization. Witmer was also head Mountaineer football coach for seven seasons, and served 15 years as the school’s athletic director.

Retired from both teaching and coaching, Witmer keeps a full schedule with volunteer work, some substitute teaching, officiating at track meets and working the concession stand at the Ephrata War Memorial Field. After his introduction at the Warriors’ half court, Witmer reflected on his coaching career, and life without coaching. He said he’ll always miss coaching but is thankful for the time he’s now able to spend with his family and on his other interests.

He saw some changes in his long coaching career, and one of the biggest changes was in the amount of parental involvement in his athletes’ endeavors. There’s more these days than he saw in the beginning. Lots more. There used to be a season for each sport, he said. “Each sport is year-round, now, and the parents make that possible. Up to a point, that’s good.”

Asked about his coaching highlights, he mentioned a few but said there were too many to really recall. The real highlights he said, were the athletes and the assistant coaches he got to work with over the years.

Dave Althouse, a 1960 Ephrata High School graduate, had almost exactly the same things to say about his athletes, his assistants and the emergence of year-round training and competition. While one cannot generalize from just two examples, it would seem that passing praise along to players and assistants could be a litany for any successful coach.

Althouse’s Warwick boys basketball teams were remarkably successful, winning three out of every four games they played during his 16 years as head coach, from 1975 to 1990. At one time, in the mid-1980s, his teams won 69 consecutive Lancaster-Lebanon League games. He was voted the L-L coach of the year five times, including three years in a row.

Althouse was all “aw-shucks” about the many coaching accolades he’s received over the years. “To the kids goes the glory,” he said. “Whenever Secretariat won a horse race they interviewed the jockey.

“We won games because we had thoroughbreds for players.”

One of those players, a bonafide thoroughbred, Jack Hurd, a Warrior who went on to play Division One ball for La Salle, had this to say in a 2009 Lancaster Newspapers interview when Althouse was honored with the annual George W. Kirchner Memorial Award: “Coach was the single most important factor in my success on and off the basketball court,” Hurd said. “He’s at the top of the list. First, family and then Coach.

“The way he taught us to approach basketball, it just carries over in so many ways to life. Things like being on time, or being early. Lombardi time is what we used to call it. He’d say, hey, that’s the way you should approach life.”

In that same Lancaster Newspapers story about the Kirchner award, one of Althouse’s fellow coaches, McCaskey’s Pete Horn, said, “He was very knowledgeable but I always thought the key for Dave’s team was he got his everyday players to play very hard and you could expect that out of any of his Warwick teams.”

Another coach, Columbia’s Steve Wisler, was quoted as saying “…Althouse was worth 15 points, just sitting on the bench.”

That story, incidentally, by sports writer Kevin Freeman, was entitled “Mentor for Life.”

Like Merv Witmer, Althouse has been a bit amazed at the increasing amount of parental involvement in the lives of student athletes. And like Witmer he saw pluses and minuses to that situation, but said he thinks parents are often too quick to confront coaches about player issues.

Since his days in the spotlight don’t come along every day or every week the way they did during his coaching days, it seemed fitting to ask him about his views of how the media treated him and his players over the years.

“The media does what it does,” he said. “I never thought much about it one way or another. My focus was always on the people involved in the program, the players, parents, the administration. Basically those relationships were my focus.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *