By COLIN STEVENS
Things couldn't have worked out much better for Greencastle-Antrim's new girls basketball coach Mike Rhine.
After accepting a teaching position at Greencastle in the math department, Rhine received a call from Brad Rideout, the Blue Devils' girls coach for two seasons. Rideout told him that he was leaving for a college job and could put in a good word for Rhine as his replacement.
"It was unbelievable the way it worked out," Rhine said. "It was God's plan."
Rhine is among six coaches in the area taking on new head coaching positions this winter.
Brad Eby is taking over Shalom Christian's girls basketball team, a position that Rhine vacated.
Eby was an assistant heading into Rhine's first season at Shalom. But when Rhine left for the coaching position at his new place of work, Eby felt compelled to stay.
"I just felt like I couldn't leave the girls since I had a relationship with them," said Eby, who still speaks with Rhine for advice. "I couldn't walk away from it."
The Flames had nine girls come out for the team, three more than the roster had a year ago. That total will allow the team to play a full schedule this season.
"It's coming along nicely," Eby said. "The girls seem excited for this year. I feel like we're doing some good things."
James Buchanan also saw an increase in the amount of girls trying out for its team.
Rick Cristofano, who took over the top job after being a varsity assistant and junior varsity coach the last three years, is using his familiarity with the players to his advantage.
Eighteen girls are playing for the JV and varsity teams and, since he coached at the middle school level before JV, Cristofano has coached about 10 of the girls in the past.
"I've been able to watch them grow and I know them," he said.
He also sees his time on the sidelines without the same pressure as the head coach as an advantage in helping the Rockets take the next step.
"When you're not in charge, you get to see a lot that the head coach can't, because there's so much going on," Cristofano said. "I'm going to draw on that to help focus on the little things."
McConnellsburg's new boys coach, Dennis Swope, has been the JV coach the last three years and also sees his familiarity with the roster as a plus.
Sixteen players came out to play and Swope knows the dedication is there.
"I've got a good group of guys that want to play," he said. Jumping from JV to varsity "is going to be a little bit different, but I think I'm willing to put the work into it."
At Mercersburg Academy, Katie LaRue takes over the girls basketball team after spending four years at a boarding school in Asheville, N.C., where she coached varsity and was an assistant athletic director.
Adjusting to the area and the different leagues Mercersburg competes in (Mid-Atlantic Prep League and Independent-Parochial School League) has been a challenge. But getting information on those teams has been even more difficult.
"You don't know how good our opponents are other than what people are telling me," LaRue said.
Familiarity aside, LaRue sees a great opportunity in helping the Blue Storm rebuild the girls basketball program.
"These kids, at least five played last year and all the rest are new," she said. "They've responded really well and I'm happy with how excited they are and how positive they've been."
Rhine, who hasn't coached since 1997 when he was an assistant at Chambersburg, hasn't had a difficult transition back onto the court.
He has his best friend, Steve Helfrick, and a Greencastle mainstay, Mark Pool, helping ease his way back into the groove as assistants.
And since he last coached, Rhine has stayed close to high schoolers as a math teacher at Chambersburg. He is still teaching on the court, except about fast-break offenses and full-court presses instead of square roots and imaginary numbers.
"If I had not been a teacher, stepping back into it not having taught teenage girls, it might have been a slap in the face," Rhine said. "The challenge was deciding what we were going to try to do with this team. But it didn't seem like it was a big adjustment when I got back on the court; even in open gyms. It just felt right."
Colin Stevens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 262-4819, or on Twitter @ColinStevens06. New coaches
A total of 6 new coaches are already holding practices for the winter sports season:
Girls basketball: Mike Rhine (Greencastle-Antrim); Rick Cristofano (James Buchanan); Brad Ebby (Shalom Christian); Katie LaRue (Mercersburg Academy)
Boys basketball: Dennis Swope (McConnellsburg)
Swimming: Jeff Kaminski (Shippensburg)