When Bill Novak took over as Northeastern girls' basketball coach in 2013, he inherited a team in need of a rebuild.
Now, Novak takes the reins of another program, this time under much different circumstances.
Novak was recently named Red Lion's head coach, replacing Don Dimoff, who left the program after 22 years at the helm.
He takes over a Lions program with a long history of success: Dimoff compiled a 480-141 career record at Red Lion along with a 298-38 record in league play.
“When I went to Northeastern I wanted to pattern that program after what Don had done at Red Lion. I wanted to implement a culture,” Novak said. “Coming to Red Lion, that culture is already in place.”
It's a much different position than the one he entered at Northeastern. In the three years before Novak took over that program in 2013, the Bobcats went a combined 22-43 overall and 7-35 in league play. In the three years that followed, the Bobcats qualified for two District 3 tournaments and made a state playoff appearance as well.
Novak has known Dimoff for some time, and said when he arrived at Northeastern he wanted to model the Bobcats after the Red Lion teams Dimoff had long oversaw.
After Novak left Northeastern following the 2015 season, he joined the Red Lion girls’ basketball coaching staff as an assistant last year. He already worked as a speech therapist for Lincoln Intermediate Union 12 and was very familiar with the Red Lion School District as a whole.
When Dimoff left Red Lion this past offseason to take an assistant coaching position at Millersville University — where his daughter Courtney is entering her freshman year — he recommended Novak as next coach of the Lions, according to Red Lion athletic director Arnie Fritzius.
“What we liked about him so much is that he’s in our building, he knows our players, our plays, our defense,” Fritzius said of Novak.
Novak said while there might be a few new wrinkles he brings to the program, for the most part the structure will remain the same — from the youth and junior varsity levels, to the offensive and defensive systems that have already been in place.
“That would not be wise to do,” Novak said when asked if he’ll reinvent the wheel at Red Lion. “One of the strong points interviewing for the position is I know how we do things. Again, it’s the culture that already exists.”
Dimoff coached the program to 14 YAIAA Division I championships, including 12 in a row from 2002-2012. He also won back-to-back District 3 Class 4A championships in 2011 and 2012.
Wins aside, Dimoff was simply cut from his own cloth — a strong-willed and demonstrative coach who instilled structure, discipline and accountability in the program. The victories followed suit.
Novak admitted he will likely have a more laid-back approach than his predecessor, but he added the core values Dimoff instilled in the Lions will remain in place.
“His persona on the sidelines is his own. My persona might be slightly different,” Novak said. “That doesn’t mean there’s any less intensity. We’re just intense in different ways. It’s not about him being aggressive and me being soft.
“I’m not Don. Nobody can be. And nobody can be me either.”