When Chris Drenning tells one of his players to just hang in there and keep trying, he's speaking from experience.
For nearly 25 years, Drenning has been trying to land a varsity high school basketball coaching position without success. While he's waited, he's continued plying his trade and honing his craft, mostly at the junior high and AAU levels.
On Friday night, the 47-year-old Drenning's wait ended when Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School named him its new boys basketball coach, replacing Josh Baker, who stepped down recently. The school officially announced Drenning's hiring on Saturday.
Drenning, ironically, had applied for the Marauder job when Baker got hired a half-dozen years ago.
"I was thrilled, humbled, grateful. All those things,'' said Drenning, who spent last season guiding the Hollidaysburg boys junior high after six years in the same position at BG. "I've coached in the game a long time at a lot of different levels. I'm anxious. This is a great program with a great history.''
Drenning was one of five applicants interviewed. Those interested included at least a couple with varsity success already, like former Marauder coach Dave Benton and one-time Juniata Valley standout Brock Anders, who has coached at Huntingdon and has put together a strong record at East Juniata the past couple of seasons.
"Chris brings a lot of great qualities, a good track record. Chris has coached at Bishop Guilfoyle before. We know what he brings,'' Guilfoyle athletic director Greg Snyder said.
The public at large, though, might not know what he brings. Drenning was part of Dave Bailey's 30-win team at Tussey Mountain in 1982. In the last 11 years as a junior high coach with the BG and Hollidaysburg boys and as junior varsity coach with the Hollidaysburg girls, he's put together a record of 157-63.
"I've had a lot of good influences in coaching. I played for Coach Bailey. I coached with Jeff Appleman. I coached under Mick Pentoney the last couple of years and Josh Baker. Tom Goss, who had a lot of success at BG and Central, coaches AAU with me,'' Drenning said. "In my coaching career, I've been fortunate to be around a lot of good coaches.''
He also inherits what should be a good team next year. The Marauders reached the PIAA tournament last season as the District 6 Class A consolation game winner. Three starters and most of the bench return.
"Nobody's going to put more pressure on me than I'm going to put on myself,'' Drenning said. "I already looked at the schedule, and I think there's only two single-A teams on it. My personal belief is that the junior class in this area is one of the stronger classes to come through here in a while. On the AAU team I'm coaching now, A.J. Leahey [of Penn Cambria], Isaac Vescovi [of Cambria Heights] and Adam Polites [of Northern Cambria] all play on it.''
One of the players Drenning has back for his first season is his son, Brandon, one of the top 3-point shooters in the area in 2011-12. The elder Drenning, though, doesn't think coaching his son will be an issue and has told the Bishop Guilfoyle administration he plans to stay with the program after Brandon graduates.
"I coached him in ninth grade, and we didn't have any problems. It's probably rougher on him than it is on everybody else. He's just a player on the floor, and you have to treat him like a player,'' Chris Drenning said.
Drenning said he prefers to play an in-your-face style using the bench freely. He has yet to secure his assistant coaches.
"Varsity jobs are hard to come by. You have to put your work and your time in and prove that you deserve the chance,'' Drenning said. "After you get the chance, you have to prove that you're worthy.''