Flashback to his senior year of high school, and under future ambitions for Jesse DeLoof it says ‘To Coach in A Final Four.’
(Former Youngsville and current Pitt-Bradford men’s basketball coach Jesse DeLoof, right, with Gage Hendrickson after Hendrickson scored his 1,000th point during the 2019-20 season.)
Back to the present day, DeLoof has taken over as the head men’s basketball coach at his alma mater, Pitt-Bradford, after serving as the head coach at Youngsville High School the previous three seasons.
“This is absolutely my dream job,” DeLoof said. “I was a player here, an assistant and now to be the head coach is something special. When I was a freshman here I knew I wanted to get into coaching and thought it would be awesome to coach here. You never know how things are going to work out. It means a little something special to be coaching here, compared to other places.”
It’s been a fascinating time to take over as a first-year coach, as Pitt-Bradford, like many schools, hasn’t had a season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I try to look at it as a positive,” DeLoof said. “It gives us an opportunity to shorten that gap between us and the teams that are competing for conference championships. We can dedicate so much time to recruiting.”
Recruiting was a primary duty of his when he served as an assistant under Britt Moore. After coaching at Youngsville the past three years, he’s gotten to know the lay of the land pretty well in Northwestern Pennsylvania.
“Whenever I was an assistant, that was a lot of my duties; I handled recruiting,” he said. “Being a high school coach for three years in Youngsville, I know most of the coaches in Northwest Pennsylvania.
“When I got the job, no recruits were allowed on campus. I needed to build my recruiting database. That meant working the phone, calling the high school coaches I know, reaching out and asking them about their guys, who I need to look at. That was the first thing, and then getting to go out and see those guys.”
He inherits a team that went 1-24 in 2019-20, but one he thinks can improve quickly.
“We need to get better,” he said. “We need to get better through practice and doing things the right way. That includes strength and conditioning, nutrition, all of it.”
The Panthers also have a 5-week camp beginning in three weeks where DeLoof will get to evaluate his team and really get to know his players.
“I have 15-18 guys that are my guys,” DeLoof noted. “It will be good to get in the gym and evaluate them and formulate our plan based on that. I’m in the belief if we have five weeks of practice and other teams have five weeks, we’ll be better.
“Our interactions have been limited. I really have to get to know these guys, who they are. Get to know them as people. This is what they know, they play basketball this time of year. Credit to the University that they are on board with us doing this five-week practice schedule. We’re very grateful for that. For us as a team, it’s all about building trust.”
And as for those Final Four aspirations.
“A Division III Final Four,” he said.