Pat Lockard (above) takes over Methacton this season after eight seasons as a varsity assistant for Jeff Derstine. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Rich Flanagan (@richflanagan33)
It was in 2011 when Pat Lockard was looking for a new career and an outlet to reignite his passion for the game of basketball. He found the first as an educator, then received an opportunity at a return to the hardwood from an old friend at a school in Montgomery County.
Lockard was contacted by John Allen, his former teammate and 2004 classmate at North Penn who played at Millersville and Bloomsburg, about joining the coaching staff at Methacton. Allen was the freshman coach, and introduced Lockard to Warriors’ head coach Jeff Derstine.
He was ensconced in his passion once again and thrilled to be given an opportunity.
“Jeff had me out scouting during most games,” Lockard said. “I would barely be at our own games because I was out scouting opponents, but I loved it. I was back in the game and back in the mix. The next season, I applied for a varsity assistant job and my coaching career began from there.”
After one season as a scout and eight as a varsity assistant, where he has seen Methacton become not only a powerhouse within the Pioneer Athletic Conference (PAC) but across the state of Pennsylvania, Lockard is officially taking over the program.
He was named the new head coach of the Warriors on September 29 following school board approval. The decision was made during the summer, but the official announcement was delayed due to the constraints brought on by the coronavirus.
Lockard was ecstatic, because being a head coach had always been a dream for him — but for months, he had to keep it to himself.
“I was told the best news of my life but I couldn’t tell a soul about it,” Lockard said.
The announcement came on the heels of the surprising May 6 news that Derstine had decided to step down. Derstine had just overseen arguably the most successful season in Methacton history as the Warriors claimed the PAC title, District 1 Class 6A title and appeared primed for a potential state crown had the tournament not been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Warriors finished 28-2 (10-0), which are the most wins in school history.
With so much time being devoted to the game, Derstine chose to step away to spend more time with his family and that opened the door for Lockard, who credits Derstine for giving him the formula on developing a program.
“I had aspirations of being a head coach ever since I got into coaching eight years ago under Jeff,” Lockard said. “I’m very grateful he gave me the opportunity and it has gone from there. When this opened up, I was really happy to go through the interview process because I know with the success we’ve had over the last couple of years, it was a more high-profile job than 10-15 years ago. I was well aware that there may have been some more high-profile candidates and it took a while to get through the interview process.”
Derstine, who previously took over the Warriors after being an assistant for one season himself, called Lockard after he made the decision and the new head coach understood why his mentor had chosen to leave the program he put on the map.
“With the time commitment that it takes to be a high school basketball coach to the level of expectations that he sets for himself, he really couldn’t be in two places at once,” Lockard said. “I know that really tore at him and he didn’t want to continue at this program if he couldn’t give himself 100 percent in.”
Jeff Derstine (above) guided Methacton to 28 games in his final season, with the Warriors in the state quarterfinals when the season ended. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Derstine finished his career with a 185-88 record. He coached such players as Brendan Casper, who scored 1,163 points and played at St. Joe’s University; David Duda, who is playing at East Stroudsburg after scoring 1,232 points in his Methacton career; plus the stellar 2020 senior class of Jeff Woodward (Colgate), Erik Timko (Jefferson), Brett Eberly (Elizabethtown) and Owen Kropp. His legacy was forged with four trips to the PIAA state tournament, which included two consecutive trips to the quarterfinals, five PAC titles, including three straight, and last year’s district title. His first PAC title came in his second season at the helm.
More importantly, he led the Warriors program to its first-ever state playoff berth in 2013.
It was a truly successful 10-year run as head coach and Lockard was instrumental to a lot of that success. He made that an integral part of his pitch to be named the new coach.
“I like to think I was a part of a successful program,” Lockard said. “I had a relationship with parents and players. I definitely harped on that because I learned so much from Jeff that I wanted to take what he taught me over the years in the program and continue a lot of that. If I have a coaching career as successful as him, I’d be a happy camper.”
Taking the reins from Derstine was never going to be an easy task and he has his work cut out for him after the most accomplished senior class in program history graduated. The 2020 class of Woodward, Timko, Eberly and Kropp compiled a 50-10 record over the last two seasons. They nearly advanced to the state semifinals in 2019 if not for a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Pennridge’s Sean Yoder, now at the Naval Academy. They had won their first two state tournament games by an average of 27 points and were scheduled to play Roman Catholic in the state quarterfinals before the season was cut short.
Still, that does not change what they achieved as a group.
Woodward, a four-year starter, left Methacton as the school’s all-time leader in points (1,450), rebounds (1,140) and blocks (262). Timko, who averaged 20.0 ppg and shot 46 percent from behind the arc a year ago, scored 1,092 points, including a single-season record 600 this year, in two seasons. Eberly avg. 8.7 ppg and finished with the all-time assist record (364). His most impressive performance came against Cheltenham in the district title game with a school-record 11 assists. Kropp avg. 10.2 ppg as a senior.
Luckily, there are two key pieces returning to the rotation in Lockard’ first season. Junior guard Brett Byrne is the only returning starter from last season and will have a much more expanded role. He had 18 points in the PAC Championship Game against Pope John Paul II and followed that up with 13 points versus Council Rock South to open the district playoffs. Junior forward Cole Hargrove, who moves to the starting lineup, was the Warriors’ sixth man last year and provided a spark when he needed to such as hitting three triples against the Panthers in the district final. Two seniors, Ryan Baldwin, who transferred in from Wisconsin a season ago, and Steven Penjuke will also be contributors in Lockard’s first season.
With the culture Derstine and his staff created at Methacton, expectations will continue to remain high for the program. Lockard is looking to extend this run of success while implementing some changes of his own, such as including “more versatility on the defensive end where we can switch a lot more” and “on the offensive end we will be able to have more of a spread offense.”
The focal point of his first season will be making sure returning players and new ones understand the heights the Warriors program has reached in recent years and what it takes to capture those monumental accolades.
“First and foremost, recognize the success we had from a season ago,” Lockard said. “That is nothing to forget, especially for Cole and Brett. That experience was great for them, but we have to make sure we define success based on what our team is going to be. I think we can still be very successful and competitive going forward but when you graduate four seniors, who are so heavily involved and absolutely great kids, that’s what we want our leadership to go into.”