High School Basketball: Shaler's Holzshu calls it quits

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After four decades, Paul Holzshu will ride off into the coaching sunset.

Holzshu has been a head basketball coach and assistant at the high school and college levels the past 40 years. He has been Shaler High School's head coach the past five years, but Wednesday night the Shaler school board accepted his letter of resignation. In reality, it was a letter of retirement.

"I wouldn't trade a second of those 40 years," Holzshu said. "It has been a great ride, and I enjoyed it. But my rear end is just a little saddle sore. So guess what? I'm getting off the horse."

Holzshu, 63 -- "going on 14," he said, will remain as athletic director. In his coaching career, he was a high school head coach at Penn Hall Academy, East Allegheny, Franklin Regional, Gateway and Shaler. He took the Shaler job after Howie Ruppert died suddenly in 2008.

He also was a coach at West Liberty University (W.Va.), Penn State New Kensington and Garrett Community College (Md.) and an assistant at Shaler, Slippery Rock University and IUP.

"I think the only place I haven't coached is Saudi Arabia," said Holzshu, a former standout player at Gateway who went on to play at Clemson.

He leaves coaching smiling, but the colorful and insightful Holzshu also has interesting thoughts on parental involvement and AAU basketball. He sounds like a man who has had his fill of parents and believes AAU is ruining high school basketball. A year ago in the first round of the PIAA playoffs, Holzshu came to his bench after halftime and found a note placed there by a Shaler parent. It read, "You need to press more."

"Basketball has become such a highly exposed activity. You can almost watch it 24/7 during the season, and everybody is an expert. ... But no one wants to be a spectator, ... " he said.

A year ago, Shaler had its best season (25-4) and reached the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals. This year, Shaler had Penn State recruit Geno Thorpe, but was 8-14 and did not make the playoffs.

As for AAU's effects on high school basketball, Holzshu said, "You mean AA me? It's not AAU. It's AA me.

"All of the activity that's available to kids outside the circle of high school basketball entered into my decision because they affect high school teams. How many AAU teams work on a team aspect? How many AAU teams game plan for a game? How many AAU kids are told, 'Look, this isn't about showcasing your skills. This is going to be about our team.' "

But added: "It's been a great 40 years. I've been fortunate and blessed to coach. It has shaped my life."

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