NEW CASTLE —
Wilmington High found its man.
Matt Fabian, 28, has been named the school’s new girls basketball coach, replacing Brandy Sanford, who resigned after the 2013-14 season.
“I’m thrilled,” the Hermitage resident said. “This a great opportunity and is a great fit for me. The administration is very supportive. I can’t wait to get into the gym this summer. My focus will be building strong elementary and middle school programs.”
The Lady Greyhounds qualified for the District 10 playoffs in three of Sanford’s four years at the helm, but graduated three of their four top scorers from last season.
“They made it to the playoffs last year and unfortunately lost in the first round,” said Fabian, a 2004 Hickory High School and 2007 University of Pittsburgh graduate. “I’m hoping we can take a step forward next year, win some playoff games and make the state playoffs.
“We’ll be young. I know they had a lot of freshmen on the team last year. They graduated three seniors and they did most of the scoring, so we’ll have to focus on finding some scorers and everyone developing a role this summer and fall.”
Fabian said he hasn’t met with his new players yet, but is hoping to do so soon.
“I’m hoping to set up a meeting this week or next week to meet with the kids to get an idea of what we can do this summer and this fall,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of upside. They’re in a tough league with Sharon, West Middlesex, Mercer, Greenville, Lakeview and Sharpsville. There’s definitely talent on this team. It’s just a matter of putting in time this summer and fall. The offseason really separates teams, especially with young kids. The more time they can put in in the gym at an early age, the better they’ll be in their junior and senior years.”
Fabian started his coaching career as an assistant under Hickory girls coach Jeanette Whitehead during the 2007-08 season before assuming head junior varsity coach and assistant varsity coaching duties in the boys program at Hickory under then-coach Nick Cannone from 2008-13.
He spent this past season as the boys eighth-grade coach at Sharon.
“I was very fortunate to coach under Nick Cannone for five years,” Fabian said. “He taught me a ton. He has over 400 career wins and I believe he is fourth in Mercer County history behind guys like (former Farrell boys coach Ed) McCluskey, (former Kennedy Catholic coach Joe) Votino — the big names in Mercer County coaching. As a young coach, you think you know a lot, but you don’t. There’s something new to learn every day.
“Six years later, I have to say he has played a huge role in my coaching career. I can’t thank him enough for giving me the opportunity to coach the game I love.”
The new Lady ’Hounds coach said he will let his roster dictate his game plan.
“It’s kind of hard to say what kind of offense and defense we’ll run,” said Fabian, who has been employed by the Hill, Barth & King accounting firm in Hermitage since 2007. “There are a lot of older coaches out there that have an offense and a defense and that’s it. It doesn’t matter what kind of kids they have. They’re running their offense and defense. That kind of philosophy is becoming obsolete. The athleticism kids have today is a night and day difference from 20 years ago.
“My offense will be predicated off of the type of team I have. If I have a quick team, we’ll run a lot of motion with backdoor cuts. If we have bigger players, we’ll be more of an inside-out type of team. We’ll get the ball inside, draw double teams and kick it back out for the open shot.
“I’d like to go full-court man-to-man and force a lot of turnovers. That creates easy baskets at the other end to the point that you really don’t need to run your offense a lot. If I have a bigger team, we’ll have to sit back and stay in a man-to-man.”
Fabian stressed off-the-ball movement as a primary offensive focus.
“Moving without the ball is important,” he said. “Too many times, teams get into the mindset that someone will do it all. If you have five people moving at all times, you’re going to be successful offensively.”