Tigh Savercool is in his second season as head coach of the Tulpehocken boys’ basketball team. A native of Millerstown, Savercool attended Greenwood High School and played under legendary coach Ken Houser. He graduated from Greenwood in 2004 and went on to DeSales University, where he played soccer and graduated in 2008. After logging a few seasons as a junior varsity and assistant coach for a pair of Mid-Penn Conference programs, Central Dauphin and Steel-High, Savercool was named the head coach of the Trojans in April, 2014.
Savercool’s Trojans logged a solid 14-9 mark a season ago with a senior-laden squad. A younger batch of Trojans is struggling this campaign, going 3-12 through 15 games, including a lopsided 74-16 loss at Milton Hershey on Saturday.
While attending to old school hardwood values with an emphasis on attitude, the 29-year-old Savercool displays a decidedly savvy new school social media game, especially on Twitter (@tsave31). We caught up with him to get his thoughts on basketball, social media, how he was convinced he blew the Tulpy interview, whether Tigh is his real name and why he prefers the NHL to the NBA.
Q: OK, let’s get this out of the way, because people want to know: Is Tigh your real name?
Savercool: (laughs) Tigh is my real name. I was named after a sprint car driver (Tighe Scott) by my parents. I grew up with relatives who raced sprint cars, all that stuff. … The guy I was named after spells his name Tighe, but I guess my parents were lazy and decided to drop the “e”.
Q: In your mind, what do you think nailed down the Tulpehocken job for you?
A: I had interviewed at several schools over a two-year span -- Northern York, Muhlenberg, Selinsgrove, couple of others. When I left the Tulpy interview, I was absolutely convinced I bombed. It was the most difficult interview – a lot of flow-up questions, questions to the follow-up question. I walked out of there and went, “dear Lord.” I believe the interview was on a Tuesday, and I walked out of there thinking I did awful. I got a phone call on Wednesday offering me the job, the next day. It was a very challenging interview. I guess I was the least bad.
Q: You are very savvy, social media-wise, perhaps in a way a lot of older coaches are not. Tell me about that. Do you think that’s a strength of yours?
A: When I was freshman in college, Facebook was just becoming popular. I think in today’s day and age the kids, so attached to it and staring at their phones all the time, it’s a way to relate to players. From their perspective, it puts you more on an even playing field and the relatability factor is definitely much higher. … I think there is somewhat of a comfort zone for kids to have a coach is in that same realm, so to speak, with the social media. … It’s a way to motivate and build a culture and what you’re looking for in the bigger picture of the program.
Q: Turning to basketball, you’re very big on attitude. You’re constantly preaching it on Twitter. Even though you’re new school with the social media, as a coach does that make you a throwback in a sense?
A: The “Attitude Club” is something that really took off. I actually got it from (Penn State coach) Matt Chambers. He does something very similar. The whole premise of the Attitude Club is that it gives a shine to statistics that don’t show up in a box score. Hustle plays. Team sacrifice plays, like taking a charge, going after loose balls. Stats in the Attitude Club include taking a charge, contesting a shot, setting a good screen that leads to a scoring opportunity, transition passes that lead to a scoring opportunity, secondary assists hockey-style -- in other words, the pass that sets up the pass. At the end of the day, every team has to have pieces that do these things or else you’re not going to have success. It’s a mindset. At a smaller school, you’re not always going to have the kids who can run fast or jump high, but they’re going to be tough, they’re going to be blue collar, they’re going to do little things correctly that add up in the course of a game. We track all of that stuff and keep a running total. At the end of the year, out leading Attitude Club player gets an award. Our booster club at Tulpehocken established a scholarship for an outgoing senior who (symbolizes) those characteristics.
Q: Was that an easy buy-in for the boys?
A: We needed a big win last year. I had a very senior-heavy group who had been around a different style for the previous three years. From a basketball perspective, it was an entirely different approach. From a mentality perspective, I was trying to meet them in the middle. It took the first half the season, but then we ripped off nine straight (wins). It got kick started with a win over Wyomissing at our place. In my mind, that was the buy-in taking place, at that that point. That win validated what we were preaching as a staff.
Q: Tactically, are you a man D guy? What do you like to run offensively?
A: From a broader perspective, you don’t wanna come in and make a team fit your style. Any good coach is going to bend and flex from year to year and try to match strengths to the team. That’s coaching, essentially. From a defensive standpoint, I’m a man-to-man guy. I love man D. It’s what I grew up in. Not even switching – just fighting though screens. Now this year, we are playing more zone out of sheer necessity. We lack depth; we lack experience. We have to throw in zones because, frankly, we exhaust ourselves on the defensive end. We expend so much energy trying to generate stuff that we have to throw in zones to conserve that energy. … Ideally, I would like to get to a point that when opponents come in they know they’re gonna get tough, blue collar man D, yeah. That’s the long term goal, getting the program to that point. Offensively, I’m not a set-driven guy. I believe in giving the kids a basic scheme that they can make basketball plays out of. A lot of our sets are college derivatives. Quick-hitters that lead into something. Trying to get our kids into positions that lead to mismatches.
Q: Did you set any goals when you arrived at Tulpehocken?
A: The goal is to qualify for districts every year. Even though we’re young this year and had a lot of kids graduate, I don’t think that expectation should change. That’s something the kids should always strive for.
Q: Let’s switch gears. Your hockey infatuation. Did you play?
A: Growing up I played street hockey. I always wanted to play ice hockey, but it was so darn expensive. When you grow up in the middle of Perry County, you’re driving 40 minutes to get anywhere, it was too much of a commitment. I watch or DVR every Flyers game. I love it. I think hockey players are the most skilled athletes in the world. What they do on ice, how fast they do it, their eye-hand coordination, everything that comes into play from an athletic standpoint, the difficulty level is through the roof.
Q: You prefer watching the NHL to the NBA. What don’t you like about the pro (basketball) game?
A: I feel the effort (in the NBA) is not always there. I’m a hustle and effort guy. I understand some of that is likely because they’re playing 82 games and the grind of that. There’s too much iso, too much one-on-one. Defensive 3-seconds is the worst penalty in all of sports. If someone wants to stay in the paint on you, who cares? Take advantage of that. … I just can’t get into it. I just don’t get into the individual stuff.