West Xtra: Leaving Montour for Moon was a 'domestic decision' for Kaufman

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If one were to take a survey on which individual meant the most to the Montour High School basketball program over the past six years, the results would probably be close to unanimous -- Adam Kaufman was that individual.

In his time as head coach with the Spartans, Kaufman compiled 111 wins and is responsible for the only two WPIAL boys basketball championship banners hanging in the Montour gymnasium.

The Spartans cut down the nets at the A.J. Palumbo Center in 2011 and 2013. It is fair to say that Kaufman has meant a great deal to Montour.

The feeling Kaufman had about Montour -- his alma mater -- was mutual. Kaufman loved his time at Montour, but his passion for Montour basketball was surpassed by only one thing in his life -- his family. That is why he felt it was the right time for a change.

"I live in Moon," Kaufman said. "My kids will be going to school there. The convenience of it with teaching at the district and having my kids go there was the deciding factor."

When the head coaching job opened up in the offseason, Kaufman knew he couldn't pass up the opportunity to don the red and white of Moon Area High School.

The majority of the time when an alma mater is in the discussion of a head coaching vacancy, the coach will be running full force at the opportunity to return to his stomping grounds. Kaufman did the opposite.

He had the opportunity to coach his alma mater, Montour, for the past six years, making it even more difficult to leave.

"I graduated [from Montour] in 1997," Kaufman said. "It was really hard [deciding to leave]. There were a lot of people there who supported me as a coach and a teacher. It was really hard to leave but family comes first. Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions that will benefit your life and your kids."

While at Montour, Kaufman experienced a lot of success. In addition to the number of wins he recorded and winning two WPIAL titles, he also had back-to-back trips to the PIAA championships in Hershey.

"It was great," Kaufman said. "We had a really good group of guys. They earned all the success they had. Everyone on the coaching staff played at Montour, so [my players] accomplished something we couldn't and that was really cool. I talk to just about every kid on those teams today, which is pretty special.

"The style of play allowed us to expand games. That is part of it. We obviously had a lot of talent. That is obviously the biggest part. We are trying to do the same thing at Moon and it is going to take some time. That is the fun part of it. We are going back to the basics and it is a nice challenge to start over new."

Like he will at Moon this year, Kaufman also had to get acclimated to becoming a head coach at Montour. It took him a while to pick up his first win, as Montour started out 0-7 his inaugural season. Once he got that milestone first victory, the pieces to the puzzle started to come together.

"My first year at Montour we had a lot of good athletes," Kaufman said. "We started the year 0-7. We were playing Canon-McMillan and they were beating us pretty good. We got back into the game and Milton Banks hit a running 3-pointer to win the game. To see their reaction after finally winning a game was priceless and that got things rolling.

"It is hard to predict wins, especially in high school. We knew we had some pretty good players coming through, so we thought we would have success. We put ourselves in the [WPIAL title] conversation every year as a team to watch and that is all you can do. That is our goal going into Moon, also. It is how you are playing at the end of the year and if you have a chance to win something."

One of Kaufman's main goals at Moon will be to reach the playoffs, something he did every year with Montour. But he knows with a new group of players to get used to and a step up to Class AAAA, it will be a difficult challenge.

Like Montour, Moon was a consistent winner under coach Jeff Ackermann, who led the Tigers to a 224-116 record and three WPIAL titles as well as a PIAA state championship in 13 seasons. But Ackermann's post was opened by the district school board in March. The Tigers fell short of the WPIAL playoffs four of the past five seasons, compiling a 51-59 record in that span, including 9-13 last season.

Ackermann has since been hired to coach at Pine-Richland. Meanwhile, Kaufman hopes to restore the Moon program to its previous run of success.

"It is a goal," Kaufman said. "It is going to be difficult. They didn't make the playoffs the last three years. It will be a nice steppingstone. There are a bunch of seniors who have never played in the playoffs and it would be a nice sendoff for them to experience that. I think we have a legitimate chance."

In order to get to that point, Kaufman is going to endure a lot of firsts with his new team. The first meeting. The first practice. The first game. All are what he describes as "part of the thrill."

"Getting to know the kids again is going to be fun," Kaufman said. "Getting to know their strengths and weaknesses on and off the court. It is the fun of it for me.

"It is a new challenge going up to Class AAAA. It is another level of talent up here. It is refreshing. It is like starting over. I am eager to see how far we can take it and see what we can do with the new program."

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