Hollidaysburg tabs Lear basketball coach

It took Odysseus 20 years to return to Greece from the Trojan War.

Brad Lear’s odyssey to get back to central Pennsylvania took four years fewer.

Hollidaysburg Area’s hiring of its new boys basketball coach on Wednesday night signalled a homecoming for Lear after a 16-year quest back to the region from Virginia.

Lear, who turns 41 on Saturday, is a graduate of United High School in Westmoreland County who went to Penn State Altoona and the main campus of Penn State. His parents, Bob and Janet, originally are from Williamsburg, and he has a number of relatives who still reside in Blair County, including his grandmother, Minnie Grannas.

“We moved here with the intention to find an area that we liked and build some experience and eventually return somewhere closer to home,” said Lear, whose wife, Shannon, also is from Pennsylvania. “We tried to become as marketable as we could for a Pennsylvania teaching position. It just never really materialized that there were things that were as close to home that were open as we would have liked to have been.

“It would have taken an area that we really liked to get us to move, because we liked the area we were in. When the (Hollidaysburg) job came open, it was definitely interesting, and I’ve always been interested in relocating to that area.”

Lear was hired unanimously as a teacher at Longer Elementary School and as co-weightroom coordinator for the fall in addition to the boys basketball position previously held by Mick Pentoney. Lear’s total salary will be $61,130.

“For me personally, as a superintendent and a former principal, the thing that set him above the rest was that he was a teacher first,” said Hollidaysburg superintendent Bob Gildea. “I feel pretty strongly that not only are we getting a good coach, but we’re getting a good teacher and a man of character, which I think is the complete package.”

Lear, who has been the head coach at North Stafford High School about a half-hour from Washington, D.C., emerged from a pool of 18 applicants, a number of which were, like Lear, from out of state but had area roots. Lear was one of four to receive a second interview.

“Coach Lear brings great energy and passion to our basketball program with the ability to develop strong relationships with our student-athletes,” Hollidaysburg athletic director Homer DeLattre said. “His knowledge of the game and his excitement to build a total program from the elementary level through varsity was evident through our interview process.

“He showed a clear vision for developing fundamentals in our players to help them succeed.”

Lear compiled a 65-46 record at North Stafford, but that mark doesn’t really offer a complete story. First, in 2011-2012, he guided the program to its first district and regional wins since 1986 during a 24-3 campaign.

Before taking over at North Stafford, Lear spent 10 years as an assistant coach at Brooke Point High School; he considers Brooke Point coach Joe Kania as one of his biggest influences on the hardwood, along with his father.

“One of the biggest keys a coach has in a successful program is flexibility,” Lear said. “Our cornerstone of our program has always been fundamentals. That really doesn’t change.”

At Hollidaysburg, Lear will be trying to fill the shoes of the winningest coach in program history, but he also inherits a team that had no seniors last season. The Golden Tigers are coming off a 6-15 campaign.

North Stafford High School still is in session. However, Lear is hoping to make it to Altoona tonight to see the Tigers in summer league action in the Building II Recreation Hall and said he’s already been viewing tape of the team from the recent season.

Lear said Hollidaysburg offers one big advantage for a coach over his last job: North Stafford is one of five high schools in its district, and students in that district could go to any of its schools once they become freshmen.

“The first year I took the job at North Stafford, I was driving down the main road that goes past the school and I saw a few kids dribbling a basketball, so I turned on the blinker and pulled over. I invited them to camp, and two out of the three kids said, ‘Well, we’re not even going to North Stafford,'” Lear said. “From day to day you could see a hundred elementary age kids, and half of them might not end up going to your school.

“To be part of a community like we were back and United and like my dad introduced me to when Christian Appleman and the Miller girls played at Williamsburg was always a luring factor. I knew I always wanted to get back to the area. It was just a tremendous opportunity that came up.”

Lear and his wife have three children: Rylee, 11; Sydney, 9; and Kamryn, 5.