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Red Lion boys' basketball coach Steve Schmehl talks with his assistant coaches Monday on the first day of practice. (Bill Kalina photo)
Steve Schmehl walked into the gymnasium at Red Lion High School Monday just like he did the last two years on the opening day of boys' basketball practice.

But this time, there was a difference.

Schmehl entered, not as an assistant coach, but as the Lions' new head coach.

The 26-year-old, who scored 1,410 points during his playing career at York College, is in charge of a big-school, high-profile program.

Red Lion was 141-75 during the tenure of the previous coach, Parrish Petry. Red Lion won one York-Adams League Tournament title and advanced to the District 3 Class AAAA championship game two times.

"I'm excited to get started," Schmehl said. "Being a head coach is something I always dreamed of doing. To get a chance, at such a young age, to lead a program like this, is a tremendous opportunity."

Schmehl, who teaches government and economics at Red Lion, knows the challenge he faces.

The Lions have no returning starters from last year's team, which won 23 games and finished second in the York-Adams Tournament and tied for first in York-Adams League Division I.

Only one returning player, Todd Maciejewski, a junior, saw any meaningful minutes with the varsity last season.

"There will be a lot of teaching," Schmehl said. "We had a meeting with the players and told them how important it will be to pay attention to details. We have some players who will be going from ninth grade ball to the varsity, and that's a big jump. Ninth-grade ball is like everyday math, and varsity ball is like calculus."

Eventually, the players will have a chance to run stuff from Schmehl's playbook. But not until they go through two days of drib-
bling, shooting and conditioning drills.

One of the drills that Schmehl brought with him from York College involves running from sideline to sideline 17 times, then 15 times, then 13 times, then 11 times -- you get the picture.

After completing the drill, the players go for a drink before heading to the foul line.

"We're going to separate the guys in shape from those who are not," Schmehl said. "Once we get into the actual practice, we need to get better each day, small steps here and there."

Schmehl's roster will include just three seniors.

"Even though we're young, we've developed a nice tradition over the last six years. That will drive these kids even harder. The guys who left showed these guys the right way to play the game."

Schmehl is looking forward to watching the progress of his team this season.

"We've got some good young players, but we don't know what they're going to do when the lights come on," he said. "We'll play hard, and we'll see what happens."

Dick VanOlinda covers high school sports for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at dvanolinda@york dispatch.com or at 505-5407.