DOWNINGTOWN — This time, it’s official.
Bob Schnure has retired as head coach of Downingtown East after 35 years.
There will be no comeback later this fall for Schnure as Upper Merion head coach Thomas Schurtz Jr. was hired as the new coach of the Cougars Wednesday night. Downingtown athletic director Earl Burnham confirmed the hire in an email sent to the Daily Local News.
“I enjoyed every part of coaching,’ Schnure said. “I loved practice and being in the gym with those kids, but will miss the camaraderie at school, since I still have a good repertoire with the faculty even though I’ve been done teaching for some time.
I’ll still be around. I never missed a practice nor a game in my 35 years of coaching at Downingtown. It’ll feel a little weird knowing that will come to an end. I really enjoyed my job.’
Schnure leaves Downingtown East with a resume that arguably ranks among the best coaches in Pennsylvania girls basketball history. In 35 years with Downingtown and Downingtown East, Schnure compiled a record of 791-244 in 1,035 games coached with 20 league or division titles, 11 District 1 championships and five PIAA championships.
In Schnure’s final season, the Cougars finished 22-8 en route to a third-place finish in the District 1 Class AAAA tournament before falling to Cedar Crest in the first round of the PIAA tournament.
The plan wasn’t for Schnure to coach the 2014-2015 season, but with Burnham needing a coach after plans fell through for Schnure’s replacement, he got the call for one more go-around.
“Technically I retired last year,’ Schnure said. “The transition for my successor didn’t work out. I’ve known Tom (Schurtz) through spring leagues and fall ball over the years. Once it became known to me he was interested in the job, I thought he’d be a strong candidate.
“What I did last year was coach a team, but didn’t run a program like in years past. Tom is a great guy to come in here and do that.’
Schurtz comes into Downingtown East after a successful 14-year stint at Upper Merion. During his tenure with the Vikings, Schurtz won over 200 games and qualified for the District 1 playoffs 11 times, including two Suburban One titles in 2002 and 2003.
Schurtz coached five of the seven players in Upper Merion history to reach the 1,000-point plateau and 21 of his players have went on to play basketball at the collegiate level. He also has led fund-raising efforts of over $20,000 in the last 10 years benefiting the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, the Wounded Warrior Project, Coaches vs. Cancer and National MS Society with the program.
“I’m very excited to coach East,’ Schurtz said. “My wife and I have lived in the Downingtown area a year and a half and we’re part of the community now. Over the past few years, there were a lot of late drives home after games and I wanted to see my daughter play. This presented me the opportunity to see my daughter and my family along with coaching basketball, all the things I love.’
“Tom’s enthusiasm, drive and determination to help make players successful as student athletes will be great here,’ said Burnham, who was the athletic director at Upper Merion when Schurtz coached there. “He will be a great fit at Downingtown.’
Schurtz is handed the task of replacing a legend in Schnure, one not many coaches would embrace immediately. Knowing Schnure over the years and the expectations of a successful program like East made the transition easier.
“There’s a little bit of intimidation in replacing a legend,’ Schurtz said. But Bob and I talked about the transition here for a year now. I have a good relationship with him and all the good work he’s done there.’
Schurtz takes over an East squad that has plenty of talent returning from the District 1 third-place finish last season, including Daily Local News All-Area Player of the Year Paige Warfel, who averaged a Ches-Mont leading 17.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
Also returning for East is All Ches-Mont second teamer Lindsay Kent (7.2 ppg), Aryah Aungst (8.0 ppg), Laura Ochsner (6.9 ppg) and Tori Barretta (2.9 ppg) on a talented squad that is projected to compete for a Ches-Mont and District 1 Class AAAA title.
No pressure for Schurtz.
“There’s a lot here to be excited about,’ Schurtz said. “With so many talented kids here, I look forward to meeting the team.’
Schurtz also received a boost in his coaching staff when Tina Nicholson announced she would return. Nicholson holds the Chester County scoring record (male or female) with 2,709 career points, the most in Downingtown history. She has been an assistant coach under Schnure the last few seasons.
“I’m excited that Tina is staying on staff,’ Schurtz said. “We’ll get together on where we plan to go in the future with this group. We’re really going to help each other out.’
During his tenure at Upper Merion, Schurtz has always coached based on his personnel. At East, that won’t be a problem with the plethora of talent at his disposal. One aspect of his coaching will remain constant.
“We’re physical on defense and play man-to-man,’ Schurtz said. “I want the team to grind things out and work as hard as they can. Our offense will be determined once I meet the team as it’s based on the personnel. Hopefully things will work out for us.’
As Schurtz leads East into its next chapter post-Schnure, the former head coach looks forward to what’s in store outside of the basketball court. Schnure and his wife, Fran Baliotti, just returned from a trip to Italy, once of many travels they’ll be upon over the next few months.
“We enjoy traveling a lot,’ Schnure said. “Now, I can do those things now without basketball in the back of my mind. At some point, I’ll go back to coaching at a lower level. My days of running a program are over.’
Schnure stated he’d be around to watch his former team along with appearing at various Ches-Mont games during retirement. He promised no predictions on East, but has a huge vote of confidence in Schurtz leading the Cougars.
“Tom is a proven coach and it rubs off on his kids,’ Schnure said. “I’ll be rooting for him to do well.’