Neil Gordon was about to begin his fifth consecutive day of long, two-a-day football practices, and he knew from experience this is the time a coach can start dragging.
But as he stopped for a coffee two mornings ago, the veteran coach was as spry as a 25-year-old in his first year coaching.
"I'll be at the locker room in about 15 minutes and I can't wait to go," Gordon said. "It's been a long time since I can remember a Friday on the first week of preseason camp when I was excited to get to the locker room."
Maybe Gordon didn't need the coffee. Shaler has been enough of a jolt.
Gordon is in his first season as Shaler's coach. He still believes he should be across the river, coaching Penn Hills, just like he did the previous 21 seasons -- and where he enjoyed plenty of success.
But the school board wanted him out for some reason, so it ousted him this past spring. Gordon then hooked on at Shaler to become Jacque DeMatteo's offensive coordinator. But when DeMatteo left to become Hampton's coach, Gordon found himself with another head coaching opportunity staring him in the face. He took it -- on an interim basis -- for a year.
"I'm excited," Gordon said. "I don't think I needed to be rejuvenated as a coach. I would've been fired up for the challenges Penn Hills would've presented. But this is a new place, I'm wearing different colors and it's a whole new kind of game. I'm still screaming at kids -- and patting them on the back -- and I'm excited. The kids here have been great."
Gordon brought four of his Penn Hills assistants with him to Shaler.
"Yeah, I miss Penn Hills, but I do not want to think about it and I don't want to hear about it because it will make me sad," Gordon said. "I'm out of there -- and I'm out of there very bitter. I'm not bitter at the kids or the coaches there now. I'm bitter at the people who caused this thing.
"I'm here on a one-year, interim basis -- and I'm enjoying every minute of it. We'll see what happens. If we do some things right, maybe they'll want to stick with the old man here, rather than a young punk from somewhere else."
Many of the top college prospects in the WPIAL and City League already have made college choices, but some are still undecided. One of the top uncommitted players is Penn Hills linebacker Dan Mason, who has offers from Pitt, Penn State, Boston College, West Virginia and Toledo.
Beaver Falls running back-receiver Todd Thomas had a number of Division I offers, but some schools are looking at him a little differently now, after seeing his low SAT scores.
North Allegheny lineman Ryan Schlieper (6-6, 280) has a handful of Division I offers and said West Virginia, Maryland and Connecticut are his top choices. Schlieper said he hoped Pitt would offer, and the Panthers were recruiting him some in the spring. But Schlieper said the Panthers have backed off, probably in part because they have commitments from three other offensive linemen from the class of 2009.
Tom Droney is only a junior at Sewickley Academy, but said he will probably decide this fall where to play college basketball.
Droney's stock with colleges has soared the past year-and-a-half. He already has scholarship offers from big-time schools and said he will probably choose between Pitt and Wake Forest. Droney (6 feet 51/2, 185 pounds) can play the point or shooting guard, and possibly small forward.
"Other schools have offered, like Virginia, St. Joe's and Davidson," Droney said. "But my two favorites are Wake Forerst and Pitt.
"I really just want to get the decision out of the way. I feel the schools I have right now, I really can't get much better. If I get it out of the way, I can focus more on my schoolwork and certainly getting better in basketball."
Duke and Ohio State also were showing interest in Droney, but both received verbal commitments from other guards in the class of 2010, and have since backed off.
Schenley basketball star Deandre Kane, a member of the Post-Gazette Fabulous Five last season, has enrolled at New Hampton School, a prep school in New Hampshire. Kane plans to attend New Hampton for a year and then sign with a Division I college.
Division I schools were interested in the talented shooting guard, but Kane said he didn't qualify academically to be eligible as a freshman until this summer. So he decided to attend New Hampton, which plays a high caliber schedule against prep schools and some college junior varsity teams.
Kane hopes to raise his grades and also said, "I'm trying to get some new looks from some schools and then we'll see what happens."
Pitt, Duquesne and Texas A&M were among the schools still interested. New Hampton has sent numerous players to major colleges and a few to the NBA. Former North Carolina star Rashard McCants came out of New Hampton, as did Bernard Robinson of the Washington Wizards and former Syracuse star Lawrence Moten.
Burgettstown recently named 24-year-old Brendan Cypher its new boys' basketball coach. His appointment brings an interesting situation. Burgettstown plays in WPIAL Class AA Section 5, along with Chartiers-Houston. Chartiers-Houston's coach is 50-year-old Jerry Cypher, Brendan's father. Wonder if a coach has ever gone against his son in the WPIAL?
Mike White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1975.