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Palisades welcomes girls, boys basketball coaches

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For their own reasons, both Gregg Dietz and Phil Ham have had connections to Palisades High School.

Now, both will see plenty of each other this winter.

Dietz was recently appointed the new head girls basketball coach for the Pirates, while Ham was given the nod for the boys squad.

A former Pennsylvania state trooper for 25 years, Dietz was a frequent visitor to the school from his barracks in nearby Dublin. His oldest daughter, Morgan, played on an AAU team coached by former girls coach Dean Reiman.

Dietz’s coaching career began during the early 1990s in Southwestern Pennsylvania. His last coaching stop was a successful one as the head coach at Fairfield for eight years, which ended in 2007. He then moved back to his native Allentown area.

“I got to know the people there (at Palisades) from stopping in for different reasons,” said Dietz. “When I heard there was an opening for girls basketball, I decided to apply.

“They say timing is everything. (Athletic Director) Brian Gilbert was very receptive to me and we had a good discussion.”

Gilbert quickly recognized Dietz’s past.

“He is an experienced, dedicated coach with past success,” said Gilbert about his new hire. “Gregg has been successful at small schools in the past. We are very excited to have him.”

Dietz didn’t waste any time trying to get acclimated to the program, as he guided the team in the Parkland Summer League.

“We had eight girls and they were very competitive,” Dietz said. “I was still learning their names halfway through the season and tried to keep it straight.

“But the girls are very coachable and they worked hard. I could see progress at the end of the season.”

Despite low numbers the past two seasons, Dietz is optimistic about the future of the program. He sees numbers and attention growing in the middle and elementary schools. With only seven varsity players last season, Palisades barely missed the district playoffs with an overall 10-12 record.

He plans to focus his primary attention on defense for the upcoming year, and can revolve his offense around budding junior-to-be forward Trinity Williams, who has been among the team leaders in several categories the past two seasons.

“I want to play five or six different defenses and make the offense adjust,” he said. “We didn’t run too much offense during the summer.

“Trinity Williams is a talented player, and we want to give her many opportunities to score.”

For Dietz, it will be about establishing his program and staying in the hunt.

“I want some of the younger players to get some time,” he said. “I think we can win our share of games in the league.

“We started the transition this summer and people will know what we want to accomplish.”

Unlike Dietz, Ham was in the Pirates’ system under former head coach Chris Alba, and he worked his way to JV coach last season.

Beginning his first varsity head coaching position, Ham made his mark in the greater Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley basketball circles as a shooting and skills instructor and an AAU coach with his roots in New York City. He settled in the Allentown area in 2002.

“For me, it is all about the kids getting better as players and persons,” said Ham. “People know who I am and what I do, but I never was really approached about a high school job before.

“Brian Gilbert knew what I did with AAU and what I did at Palisades. He approached me about the job and I was very excited to take over.”

Gilbert equally is excited about Ham’s presence.

“He is a basketball junkie,” said Gilbert about Ham. “He has done a great job in getting the guys to the gym to work on the skills and drills needed to be successful.”

Ham already has made some strides. He has the Pirates in the hunt for a playoff berth in the small schools’ division of the Allentown Summer League, and they had a respectable showing in the prestigious Bash at the Beach Tournament in the Lehigh Valley.

“It was a little different for them at the tournament,” stated Ham. “But they didn’t back down. They have played and adjusted well in the league. We have been pushing the ball and getting out and running. We’ll rely on our speed.”

It will be about building a foundation for Ham, who plans to rely on underclassmen with the loss of four starters from a 6-16 squad last season. Sophomore Liam Carey, who saw limited time last season, is expected to open at the point.

“We have a lot of young kids who can play varsity and they should have gotten a chance last year,” said Ham. “I’m going with younger kids who are hungry.

“We have had a good number of kids at open gyms, and we are already anxious to get started. We’ll play in-your-face defense and hustle. We’ll do everything the right way and it will pay off for us this season.”


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