Friends, colleagues reflect on coaching legends
While consistently carrying themselves with class and grace, Troy Sowers, Brad Livingston and Bill Ackerman left a lasting impact on many people around them whether it be media, former players, referees or fellow coaches. Almost every person they interacted with can recall a favorite memory or story. Here are a few:
On Troy Sowers
"One was when his team was playing for the state championship at the Bryce Jordan Center. My partner then, Wayne McCullough, couldn't make the game that night, so I asked then Eastern York basketball coach Larry Fisher to join me to do the color. We were going to do the pregame interview with Troy, and as we headed down the hall toward him, I could see just looking at him that Troy was nervous — can't imagine why. So, I thought I'd try to break the tension a little. As we got into Troy's earshot, I turned to Larry and said, 'Larry, I can't believe you just gave that detailed scouting report on Troy's guys to the Penn Wood coach!' There was a second of silence, and Troy had a look of 'You did WHAT!' Then Larry started laughing, and we all did, and I think it did break that tension a bit. And I'm sure Troy knew all of York County was rooting for him and really proud of him and his team."
--- Ron Ruman, radio host
"What really stands out is the night Troy finally got what he considered to be his dream job, the night the school board voted him to be the next boys' basketball coach at William Penn was just a special evening. I went to the board meeting. This was something really big because there had been some coaching turmoil over a period of time and here was a guy right then and there ready to say, 'That stops now.' And he went to William Penn, he had a vested interest, he taught at the middle school for the district and he really believes in the school as an alum and an educator. To talk to him that night and hear how special the moment was finally becoming the head coach of his program — it meant so much to him."
--- Steve Navaroli, GameTimePA.com correspondent
On Brad Livingston
"The first game I did after 9/11 was a Northern at Central game. When I interviewed Brad before the game, I asked him what he had talked to his players about after the attacks. He said he discussed how something like this puts sports in perspective. But, he also said he told his players that it was important they play this game, because it showed the terrorists they wouldn't disrupt our lives, they wouldn't win. I bet many of those players were thinking about those words after what happened in Orlando."
"It's almost impossible to pick one moment so I'm going to go with two. The first being the night of the final game at the old Central York High School when the Panthers came from behind, scored two touchdowns late and forced overtime. They ended up beating their rival William Penn in that overtime. William Penn had been in first place at the time, Central was probably .500 or a little better but the point was it was such a great moment for Brad and after the game he was so elated — not so much for the victory but more because of how it came, especially in the final game on that field.
Now we jump to the first practice in the next August when they're moving to their new school. They had everyone meet at the old school and board buses so no one got there ahead of time. The offense got on one bus, the defense on another. And I was there and I followed these buses in my car just to cover it from that perspective. It was really cool to see the kids' reaction but as I spent the morning there, Brad was just having so much fun. He was singing funny things and just enjoying the moment that many even longtime coaches don't get. And he said to me at one point, 'You have to excuse me. I'm just really giddy today with everything that's going on.' And when you see a guy of Brad's stature — both his long-term experience and physical size — use the word 'giddy' to describe himself, that was really cool."
"We started to listen to music at a lot of practices when we moved to the new high school. And he's the one making the playlists! So when Lady Gaga comes on the speakers and it's 'Poker Face', he's on the 50-yard-line dancing and singing and the kids were loving it. There are so many stories, he left such an impact. I don't think people understand how much he was still completely intact with being able to relate to kids. I never saw him make a bad decision for a kid which is remarkable."
--- Russ Stoner, coached with Livingston at Central
On Bill Ackerman
"Bill was such a competitive guy. This was probably about 15 years ago, after a construction project at the school had not included any new gym or any renovations to the old one which was, shall we say, not the nicest facility around. I asked him if he was disappointed that he didn't get a new gym. He surprised me by saying no. He said something to the effect of 'This place is such a pit. Our fans are right on top of the other team, and when we pack the place, it's a real home court advantage.' Bill got that new gym this year, and his team christened it with a win over Gettysburg. Then he ended up a couple of weeks later coaching his last game there — a heartbreaking, last-second loss to Berks Catholic in the district playoff opener. Maybe it's fitting Bill went out — he lost his pit."
When I first took over at Littlestown, Parrish Petry did a clinic at PSU York and he had Warren Goodling (who was at Hempfield at the time) and coach Ackerman speak at the clinic. This was 2007 or 2008, which I believe was right after (West York) won their district title. I believe Bill spoke first and he started his presentation by commenting on how he didn’t care that he was sharing “his secrets” and he encouraged us to take notes and ask questions. He said he wants all of York County to be as good as (West York), because if every program in York became a good program then that would make (West York) better. Now he was almost 10 years in by then but I still found it powerful. He knew that we were the step child to the LL and Mid-Penn. Look at 3A and 4A districts semis in the past eight years. Look at how York has grown. Bill deserves that credit (as does Troy as York High was one of the programs to grow)!!
--- Central York head coach Kevin Schieler
I was covering an early-season game of West York's and before the game, he saw me and asked if we could chat after the game. Of course I told him yes. After the game, he informed me he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. And while I was shocked because that's something you never want to hear, Bill's thinking was he wanted to talk to me as a survivor and talk about the battle. I always admired Bill's old-school style, his passion for the game and for helping kids. This was another case where he was taking his passion into his recovery. A couple months later, the student body at West York was all wearing "We Love Ack" shirts and chanting when he entered the gym prior to a game. It was an incredible moment and I was so fortunate to be there shooting video. Bill was brought to tears, obviously very emotional but such a moment and it really tells you the impact a coach can have not just on his basketball team but on an entire community.