PHILIPSBURG — When Matt Curtis stepped down after six years at the helm of the Philipsburg-Osceola boys basketball program last week, he left a message on his twitter page thanking everyone for the memories he made over the last six seasons.
He also said that he was leaving the program, “in great hands. I made sure you are getting the best out there.”
That best turned out to be longtime area coach T.J. Anderson, who was most recently the head coach at Juniata Valley. The Philipsburg-Osceola school board voted on Tuesday night to hire Anderson for the job.
Anderson has extensive basketball knowledge and coaching experience. He comes from a basketball family. His uncle, Joe Anderson, is the all-time leading scorer at St. Francis University in Loretto. His nephew is a red shirt freshman on the Red Flash this year.
But, it’s not just his family ties that Anderson is well-known for. He is the founder of the Juniata Valley Stingers AAU travel team. That team features players from all over the area, including Mountie basketball players Ryan Whitehead and Jeremy Whitehead.
Anderson, who has also coached at Huntingdon, said he was excited to take the job.
“I took the P-O job because of the family atmosphere created by Coach Curtis and his coaching staff, the administration, the boosters, the players and their parents,” he said. “It’s important to note that the foundation of players and the programs set in place by Coach Curtis and his staff, made my decision to come much easier. I feel we have some strong years coming due to the great athletes that have been developed by Coach Curtis and staff, so this is why I wanted to be a part of the P-O family.”
Anderson, who graduated from T.C. Williams High School in Virginia and played basketball in college at Stratford University in New Jersey, said that he is excited to have inherited a team that is coming through a tough rebuilding phase.
“The foundation is there for success, so we would apply a few new systems and some new programs which has worked when I coached at other high school programs,” said Anderson. “Building a relationship with our new coaching staff and new players is key. I also, would like to reach out to our alumni and our community to start building a relationship with them.
“We represent them, so we must continue to build a program that they can be proud of. The goal is to compete at the highest level we are capable of on a daily basis until we can develop the skills and the mentally it takes to become a championship program.
“Academically, I would like to build a relationship with the teachers who are helping to mold and shape our young men. I hope to give them the extra support they need to get the best out of our athletes outside of the gym.
“Lastly, helping guide our younger coaches, our elementary and junior high programs. All three of these things will help us continue to develop into a championship program.”
Anderson also has plenty of experience with the Mountain League, serving as an assistant at Huntingdon. He said it’s important to get the Mounties in to the upper echelon of the league.
“We must become a championship program and it starts with everything we do on a daily bases as a program,” he said. “Once we have buy-in from everyone involved from the administration, the coaches, the parents and most importantly the players, we will start to see a change.”
Anderson will have some help in preaching his set coaching philosophy as well, having the Whitehead brothers on the team who already know his coaching style.
“It’s truly tough to win without good players,” Anderson said. “The Whitehead brothers bring a lot to our program. They understand my expectations as a coach and they believe in our systems.
“We have been able to win games outside of the state and also championships within the state of Pennsylvania. We will continue to get the best of their abilities every day. These two are great players but we must continue to develop a team, to help them achieve their goals.”
But, Anderson said he sees the team as a whole as talented.
“Over the years, I noticed that it takes a team to win. We must continue to develop other talented players with them, to be successful. Players like Jacob DeSimone, Oliver Harpster and a young Nick Johnson. These players I have already built a relationship with, but through film I see we have many other players that have the ability to help build something special. I can’t wait to start to build that relationship with them.”
DeSimone was a starter as a freshman last season and was a key figure for the Mounties, who struggled with injuries.
“Yes, we can pick our team captains but that doesn’t always mean they become our leaders,” he said. “Players lead by different ways. We have a Leadership Program that will be used for all players to apply. We will promote leadership throughout all of our P-O basketball teams.”
Anderson said he was glad to have the backing of Curtis in taking over the Mounties.
“I feel honored and humbled that he would think of me to continue what he and his coaching staff has started,” Anderson said. “It’s only right to offer Coach Curtis and members of his coaching staff an opportunity to be a part of the program moving forward.”
Anderson said he feels the youth program will also be a key in getting the Mounties to become a championship caliber team.
He said he is anxious to get started and called the opportunity a blessing.
“We are happy to get started,” he said. “Thank you to everyone who had a hand in making this transition happen. Thank you to my family for allowing me to continue with my love and passion.
“To my JV coaching staff, we created something special and I thank you for everything. To my P-O coaching staff, I hope to create some magic with you all. To the P-O Community, thank you for trusting in us and we hope to make you all proud.”