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Spielman to call it a career

February 20, 2005|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

HANCOCK - Jeff Spielman never really had an interest in playing basketball as a youngster.

"I was more of a track person in high school," said Spielman of his prep years at South Hagerstown.

It wasn't until he went to the University of North Carolina-Pembroke on financial aid for track that Spielman began to develop an interest in basketball becoming a long-term item on his future resume.

When it did, there was no looking back and the love affair has continued throughout his career as a high school coach, specifically the past 20 years as head coach of the Hancock boys basketball team.

Spielman will coach his final regular-season game with the Panthers on Wednesday, having announced his retirement last week. His 20-year mark at Hancock is 210-238 and his career mark, including four years at Clear Spring, is 237-299.

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Spielman penned in his retirement letter: "Yes, I am the winningest coach in Hancock history, but being humble, I am also the losingest."

"I worked with the college program at Pembroke, and I was like a part-time trainer in basketball operations and sometimes I even helped drive a van to away games," Spielman said. "I wanted to be a coach, but I never thought it would be in basketball. I just grew to develop a love for the game."

Spielman's first coaching venture came at Clear Spring from 1980-84, while he was still on the Hancock staff as a track and assistant football coach.

"When that position opened up we had moved to Shepherdstown (W.Va.), actually not far from where Bob Starkey lives," Spielman said. "The four years I spent (at Clear Spring) prepared me for coaching basketball at Hancock."

After taking the reins of the Hancock girls team in 1984-85, Spielman began his 20-year reign following area notables Jeff Bailey, Andy Reid, Kevin Murphy, Rich Hawkins and Len Kerns on the boys' bench.

"I knew there was a losing standard and I thought I could help the program when I took over," Spielman said.

His first team in 1985-86 included the likes of seniors Chris Barnhart (currently the golf coach at Catoctin), Eric Michael (now an assistant principal at Williamsport), Dave Kerns and Mike McCuskey. They went 14-6.

"(Coach Spielman) knew us all from seventh grade on up," said Kerns, a basketball official in Washington County. "He was an easy-going coach, always the same in practice and games. The biggest thing I learned from him was how to grow up. He put a lot of effort into us as young men and into coaching. I always respected him."

Over the years, Spielman has recognized the differences in the game and the rewards it has given him.

"The game itself has gotten so much faster over the years," he said. "The 3-point shot has made a big difference. Parents now get too wrapped up and too wild and they're even yelling at the kids. I've tried to do all the little things to help the kids.

"I'm happy seeing (the kids) grow up and develop over the years. I saw them all grow up teaching in the elementary school and turn into athletes and young men. If there's one kid, and one parent, that comes to you and says, 'Thank you,' it makes it all worthwhile."

Spielman has not made a decision about whether or not to continue teaching or coaching track, nor has he closed the door on possibly returning to basketball.

"One of my buddies told me, 'You've still got a lot of miles left,' so I might look at a situation," said Spielman, who added he "hopes I'll be missed because of my personality" when asked how he'd like his tenure to be remembered.

Spielman also has had the pleasure of coaching his son, Jeff, through the ranks as Hancock hopes to achieve its best record in school history. The Panthers are 18-2 heading into Wednesday's game against Williamsport.

And then there's Spielman's wife, Janie. "She has been a wonderful coach's wife all these years," he said. "We fell in love with the community when we came here and it's had staying power."

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