With only three players graduating from a PIAA tournament-qualifying team, the prospects for Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School boys basketball in 2012-13 are looking pretty good.
Josh Baker won't be there to see it, though. The Marauders' coach for five of the last six years had another team to support that was even closer to his heart.
Citing a desire to spend more time with his wife of 6 years, Kristen, and 19-month-old son, Elias, Baker, just 32, turned in his resignation and announced to his former Marauder players and coaching staff on Wednesday that he was stepping down.
"It's solely a personal decision,'' Baker said, his son cooing in the background. "Periodically, throughout the year, [I think that] I have a young family. I missed a lot of things with my wife and my kid through the preparation of practice and games and things like that. I really sat down at the end of the year, kind of weighed the job and its responsibilities compared what I really felt like what I needed to be home for.
"It really was no comparison.''
Despite playing in a Laurel Highlands Conference dominated by Class AA and AAA schools with a team overflowing with underclassmen and lacking any big scorers, Baker's Marauders posted a 14-12 record. When it got into the District 6 Class A playoffs, though, BG benefited from the tough competition it had already faced, winning the consolation game to advance to interdistricts.
Baker does not work in the school; he is the transportation program manager for Blair Senior Services.
"I was a little bit surprised [he resigned], but I was aware that Josh, with his work and his basketball, it's very demanding, and Josh puts in a lot of time,'' Guilfoyle athletic director Greg Snyder said. "It's a little surprise, but family's first, and, whatever he needs to do to spend more time with his family, I support him 100 percent.''
Baker leaves his alma mater with a career record of 66-57. His 2006-07 team won the 6-A championship.
He said, though, that didn't judge his performance only by wins and losses.
"The daily interaction with my players and staff is the most rewarding experience I have in coaching. I do feel very satisfied that we played the BG way, and I'm not referring to a style of play. Our kids played hard, they played smart, they played together every single day,'' Baker said. "That meant the most to me - teaching the things that our program values, instilling those in our players. I felt we did a great job of doing that.''
Three of the Marauders' top four scorers are coming back next year, including point guard Patrick Irwin, 3-point shooting ace Brandon Drenning and 6-foot-4 Zach Patterson.
"There's never a good group to leave. They're all great kids. I'm confident they know I love and care about them,'' Baker said. "It was never a matter of leaving on a high or a low note to me. I do feel that the program is in better shape now than it was when we took over. I think it's really set up to have a lot of success in the future if the right person is at the helm.''
Although Snyder himself is leaving at the end of the school year to take over as AD and football coach at Bishop Carroll, he expects to be involved in the search for Baker's succession.
"I honestly think we will get some good applicants. I'm looking forward to advertising it,'' Snyder said. "But we haven't discussed anything yet, because [the opening] is so fresh.''
"The kids will be resilient. The program will continue to thrive,'' Baker said. "I don't know who will have the capacity or willingness to [be the next coach], but, as the previous caretaker of the program, I know that the school will do its due diligence and gets someone who respects the position and respects the tradition.''