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Pfeffer hired as new coach for AAHS

Pfeffer

By Michael Boytim

mboytim@altoonamirror.com

The Altoona Area School Board hired Doug Pfeffer Monday night after a unanimous vote to be the fourth Mountain Lions head boys basketball coach in eight seasons.

Pfeffer has been Altoona’s ninth-grade boys basketball coach the past six seasons.

“It’s really important that he’s been around all our kids and been in our system,” Altoona athletic director Phil Riccio said. “He’s an Altoona guy. We have Vince (Nedimyer Jr.) who is running football that’s an Altoona guy, and we have Doug running Altoona basketball that’s an Altoona guy, and I think that’s real important. We need the pride and the competitiveness. The ‘come at you with everything, win lose or draw’ attitude on the court. I’m excited to work with Doug, and looking for a great start.”

Altoona finished 4-19 last season and saw its season come to a close with a 63-42 loss to State College in the District 6 Class 6A championship game. Jarrod Klausman resigned to spend more time with his young family shortly after that game following three seasons on the Mountain Lions’ bench — two of which included District 6 titles.

Though Altoona came out on top of the district in Klausman’s first two seasons, the Lions have struggled to find their footing in the Mid-Penn Conference.

“My expectation is that we’re going to compete every game,” Pfeffer said. “We’re in a tough and brutal conference, but we’re going to put our best effort out every night we’re on the floor. I’m just asking that I see improvement from game to game. Wins and losses will take care of themselves, but we need the effort from the coaching staff and the players to make this a successful program.”

Pfeffer is a 1990 AAHS graduate, played for Larry Betar and later served with him as an assistant coach. Pfeffer has pursued the job he was hired for Monday ever since.

“Since I graduated high school, it really has always been a dream of mine to be the head basketball coach of the Altoona Mountain Lions,” Pfeffer said. “It didn’t work out a couple times, and my family told me to go for it one last time, and I’m glad I did and it worked out. I am just happy to be part of the rich tradition of Altoona Mountain Lion basketball.”

Riccio said Pfeffer’s desire to lead the Mountain Lions stood out.

“It showed me a lot of character, because he applied before and didn’t get it,” Riccio said. “Coming back at it again, and as strong as he came back at it, shows a lot about his character and his willingness to fight through adversity and take a rejection and grind until you get the positive. That’s what we want our coaches to be like and what we want our kids to be like.”

Prior to his six-year stint as the ninth-grade boys coach, Pfeffer coached the seventh-grade team for three years.

“I think that helps a lot,” Riccio said. “The kids know the system, he knows the building, he knows the logistics, the expectations off the court and the things that need to take place in the school building during the school day. It puts him ahead of the game.”

Pfeffer, who recently turned 50, is a juvenile probation officer.

“The Mid-Penn is a tough conference,” Pfeffer said. “Night in and night out, you’re playing the best teams in the state. We have to have the attitude that we can compete and win these games. The last couple years, even though the record hasn’t shown it, they have competed. I have seen that firsthand. We just need to turn the corner and win some of those games that are close in the fourth quarter instead of losing. Once we start winning, it becomes contagious, and we need players to have that mentality that we are going to win.”

Pfeffer was asked what would be considered a successful first year.

“A winning record in the Mid-Penn, a district title and advancing in the state playoffs as far as we can go,” Pfeffer said. “At some point, and I’m not saying it’s going to be this year, but competing for a state title in the next couple of years.”

Pfeffer said one of the ways he plans to make that happen is to get the numbers up within the Altoona basketball program.

“I want to get as many kids as possible out for the team,” Pfeffer said. “That way we see the talent, and we can pick. If we have numbers, we have a better chance of competing in the Mid-Penn and the state playoffs. I’m going to work with the other coaches in the school district at the high school level. Maybe we are missing athletes on the football team, the track team that can help us out. We need numbers, and hopefully a new start with a new coach might get more players out.”

The Mirror’s Cati Keith contributed to this story

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