BUTLER TWP — Cliff Foster thrust both arms into the air and waved.
“We’re in 22,” Foster exclaimed. “We’re always in 22.”
Standing on the Pine-Richland sideline coaching high school girls basketball was the last place Foster expected to be as recently as September.
But here the 2000 Knoch graduate was, calling out defensive sets for the Rams.
“When (former Pine-Richland girls basketball coach Molly Copples) called me and told me she was going to hand in her resignation, she told me to go apply right now,” Foster said. “It came out of left field. It came out of nowhere.”
Foster, who lives in Wexford with his wife Katie, daughter Cassie and one-month old son Cruz, had coached the fourth grade girls team in the Pine-Richland school district and his daughter played for the team.
He only got involved with that team because of “sheer father frustration,” Foster said. “There wasn’t anything good in place.”
All Foster did was whip up a traveling team that dominated the competition.
“We were blowing teams away,” he said, smiling. “We had quite the squad in fourth grade, beating teams 52-2. They are nice players.”
That experience also gave Foster the coaching bug.
Foster was a standout player at Knoch, winning the Butler Eagle Boys Basketball Player of the Year award in 2000. He went on to have an equally dominating career at La Roche College, where he left as the program’s all-time leader in assists, steals and games played. He was inducted into the La Roche College Hall of Fame last year.
Coaching, though, was never high on his agenda — until 30 days before the basketball season when he was hired at Pine-Richland.
That left little time for Foster to get acclimated to his team and high school girls basketball as a whole. But Foster said basketball, no matter what level and who is playing, is all the same.
“I don’t think coaching girls is any different than coaching guys,” Foster said. “We’re trying to drive a certain mentality, a certain style of play.”
Foster is looking forward to having a full offseason with his team. That doesn’t mean, though, he is writing off this campaign.
“I could have easily been that guy who said, “Seniors, we’re going to let the younger girls to play,’” Foster said. “The seniors got first crack at it and they have worked their butts off. We’re still grooming the younger players, but the goal is to make the playoffs and win the section.”
Foster is enjoying life on the bench.
“I’m loving it,” Foster said.