Ebersole's court back in session

Basketball: After retiring from coaching in 1989 to spend more time with his family, Westminster girls coach Dick Ebersole is back at the school where he enjoyed his greatest success

High Schools

January 09, 2000|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Wherever Westminster girls basketball coach Dick Ebersole goes during practice, a yellow sheet of paper follows.

On that piece of paper is the types of drills he plans to run his squad through. And beside each notation is the starting and ending times for each drill.

For Ebersole, who doesn't shy away from the "basketball junkie" label, that yellow sheet of paper is a blueprint for success.

"I'm a stickler for perfection and this is my classroom," he says, referring to the gymnasium. "I tell [my players] that as soon as they cross that white line, they're in school."

That inner drive prompted Ebersole, who hadn't coached since the end of the 1988-89 season, to return to the bench last spring. And it's his passion for teaching that has him believing that Westminster will return to the top echelon, which is where the Owls hovered during the 1980s.

Ebersole's players believe him. After all, who would doubt a coach who guided three teams in 12 seasons to the state tournament?

"He always has our full attention," says JoAnnah Jennings, a senior guard and a tri-captain. "He knows what he's talking about, and he wants to make us better."

Ebersole has always been involved with basketball. From his high school days as a forward in West Virginia to when he began his career as the boys JV coach for Francis Scott Key in 1970. After one season there, he filled the same position at North Carroll until 1973.

In 1977 -- his rookie season as the head coach of the Francis Scott Key girls team -- the Eagles advanced to the state Class C (now known as 1A) final.

After one more season with Key, Ebersole moved in 1980 to Westminster, where he enjoyed his greatest success.

The Owls made it to the state semifinals in 1981 and 1985, but both trips ended in losses to the eventual state champions.

But basketball duties began consuming time that Ebersole had intended to spend with his two growing children, Brett and Kelly.

Ebersole says he knew it was time to retire after Westminster had won its own Christmas tournament in 1988 and Brett was helping him clean up the gym.

"My son, who must've been in third grade, said, `Dad, watch me hit this free throw,' and he did," Ebersole recalls. "That's when I knew that I didn't want to miss him growing up. That's one regret that I never wanted to have."

When the season ended, Ebersole walked away with a record of 130 wins and 80 losses in his nine-year career with the Owls. But he never entirely abandoned basketball, providing color commentary on high school games for the local cable station and organizing summer camps at Westminster.

The coaching itch returned last spring when former head coach Sue Conklin, who had played for Ebersole, decided to step down because she was pregnant.

Ebersole, who says that one of his motivations is pride, says he jumped at the coaching offer from athletic director Steve Thomson.

"I kind of see it as a challenge to get the program back to our heyday," he says. "I hope the kids get a chance to taste some of that success."

This season, the Owls are 3-7 and struggling to find a rhythm.

In a 45-32 loss to Liberty Tuesday, Westminster committed 20 turnovers and converted only two of 10 free throws. So on Wednesday, Ebersole had the team work on its passing and free throws.

His players are receptive to their coach's proddings, which sometimes include boisterous halftime talks.

"He yells at us about what we're doing wrong, but he also tells us what we're doing right," says junior center and tri-captain Katie Selby. "It gets us focused."

Ebersole says he is not discouraged by the results.

"To me, the beauty of the girls game is that it is the one place where you can truly teach," he said, noting that five of his 11 players are sophomores. "Refining skills and teaching mechanics, that's been the draw and appeal for me."

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