Q&A: Northeastern boys' coach Jon Eyster
Jon Eyster is entering his fifth year in his second stint as boys' basketball coach at Northeastern High School. He sat down with GameTimePA.com to talk about the Bobcats' upcoming season:
GameTimePA: Can you talk a little about last season's team? You guys made the jump from Class AAA to Class AAAA and wound up winning Division II, finishing sixth in District 3 and qualifying for the PIAA state tourney.
Jon Eyster: We actually feel like we should have won more. We were 20-2 at one point and lost a couple of games we shouldn't have lost. In a sense, we expect to be fighting for playoff positions, championships and districts every year with the ultimate goal of making the state playoff round.
GTPA: How is this season shaping up?
JE: We have three guys back who started last year. Kobi (Nwandu) and Donovan (Maxfield) started every game and Jeffrey Reynolds started some and played a whole lot. Jordan Zirkle and Kody Reeser also played a lot. We feel pretty good about the experience we have back. We also have some kids coming in that we have high hopes for. I think it is a good mix of experienced guys and young guys with youthful energy. We'll try and make it work with what we have. We're not big by any stretch of the imagination, but we're big enough.
GTPA: What do you expect from Division II this season?
JE: There are going to be a lot of teams capable of winning games. West York has a lot of guys back with experience. Eastern York has a great guard (in Broguen Nicholas) to build around. Those (games with Eastern York) were two of our toughest games last year. Dover has plenty of size and some youthful guards, but they are going to be good. Gettysburg is always a challenge. If you're not ready to play on any given night, you're going to be in trouble.
GTPA: How much has your uncle, (former West York boys coach John Eyster, who coached Jon in high school and spent 16 seasons as the Bulldogs coach) influenced you and your career path?
JE: He's still coaching (as an assistant with Northeastern). He's my role model. He's my mentor. He's been one of the biggest influences in my life and still is. It's been kind of a slow process (getting him to come back), but he's all in now. It didn't take long. The first year or two here, he would help scout for us but not come to a lot of stuff. Now, he's at every practice. He is fanatical on the details. He keeps you on your toes and makes me stay on top of things. It's been good for all of us here.
GTPA: This year is your 21st season at Northeastern when you add both your stints here together. That puts you right at the top of the seniority list among the league's coaches. Does it seem that long?
JE: It's been a journey. When I got out of the military and went back to school, I started coaching (at West York) for (former West York player and coach and Red Lion coach) Parrish Petry. I was an assistant for four years. I then interviewed for this job and wasn't really expecting to get it. I just wanted to get the experience of the interview. When they offered me the job I was like, 'wait a minute, I need to think about this.' I was pretty young when I got the job. I've been around a long time.