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When he first started coaching AAU basketball, Blaine Claiborne would always tell his high school coach — York Catholic legend Mike Keesey — "Coach, I am not like you."

Then Claiborne would find himself echoing words Keesey had used when Claiborne played under him. He even adapted the practice outlines that Keesey was famous for.

"Coach was meticulous with doing an outline. The first time I was drawing up a practice plan, I found myself doing an outline," Claiborne said.

Now Claiborne will get the opportunity to test even more similarities. He was hired to become the next boys' basketball coach at York Catholic, replacing Ryan Luckman, who was not brought back after one season at the Irish helm.

While there may be some rebuilding to do at the school that went 11-13 last season, Claiborne hopes to return the program to its elite past, which he was a part of as a guard on the 1990 PIAA Class AA championship team.

"It's more special because its my alma mater and what we were during that time when I was there," he said. "It's a special place. That's one of the things that motivates you to put in time, get the alumni involved and excited. I don't see it as pressure. I see it as a challenge."

The 39-year-old spend the past season as the junior varsity coach at York Suburban and before that served as the head girls' basketball coach at William Penn. The Bearcats had only nine girls when he took the job, but built up to 40, including junior varsity and junior high teams during his tenure.

Claiborne, who during the day is an equal opportunity specialist for PennDOT, said both of those coaching experiences will help him in his new job.

"When I spent this year at Suburban, even though I was JV, I was at every varsity practice. There were more similarities than I thought there would be," he said of coaching boys. "Building that (William Penn) program prepares you, and rebuilding the program at York Catholic — some of things I learned I can lean on.

"Being at Suburban and seeing how important it is to develop relationships with the kids. Sometimes we get caught up in X's and O's. You have to be open to learn from them, watch them and listen to them."

York Catholic High School principal Katie Seufert said an official start date will be determined when the paperwork gets finalized. Still, she said the hiring committee was impressed with Claiborne's commitment to the school.

"I think we are pretty excited. Coach Claiborne displayed a lot of dedication to YC during the interview process," she said. "We are looking forward to having him meet the students and get things going."

Seufert added that Claiborne's previous coaching experience "outside of the York Catholic community" will help him build the Irish program.

When that day comes, Claiborne has a plan ready.

"Meet with the boys, anybody who is interested in playing basketball. Introduce myself let them know that regardless of whatever happened in the past, we are going to become family," he said. "We are going to work together and be there like a family. That's what matters to me. Building relationships, having fun and getting back to winning."

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