Gene Evans’ death may have taken away a local basketball icon, but his legacy certainly lives on.
And no school likely sees that more than Boiling Springs High School.
Both Pat Dieter, the head coach for the boys’ basketball team, and Rick Falk, the head coach for the girl’s basketball team, credit Evans — who died at his Carlisle home Friday at age 83 — with having an effect on their own styles of coaching.
Dieter, who has been the head coach at Boiling Springs for 27 years, was first introduced to Evans as one of his basketball players at Carlisle High School in the 1970s. Though Dieter wouldn’t get to play for Evans until his junior and senior years, which was the last year Evans would coach Carlisle High School basketball, the young basketball player could already tell that Evans was someone worth learning from.
“When I was a JV, I would sit and watch him coach,” Dieter said. “I lived too far away to go home and then come back for my practice, so I asked if I could stay and he said it was fine for me to sit in.
“We had a really good team that year, and I watched the way he coached. I felt that he epitomizes what coaching should be. I still use things that I learned from watching him 30-plus years ago. Not all players like going to practice, but I loved going to practice every day with Gene. It was challenging and very fulfilling.”
One of the things that impressed Dieter was how quickly Evans could pick up on changes in the game.
“He just (had) such a great eye for the game,” he said. “There are an immense number of things that I remember about him, but I remember one big game we were playing in Chambersburg. It was a pretty heated game, and the official made a call and stopped the game.
“We were all players, so we didn’t really know what was going on, but Gene went to the official, and the next thing we know the call changed. He explained that the official had mistakenly called a five-second violation in the back court. You’re allowed to stay 10 seconds, so the call was wrong. But I don’t know if all coaches would have been able to see that right away. He stopped the game, and it was a big play. That was just the type of thing he was able to do.”
Coaching at Dickinson
Falk had never played under Evans’ tutelage, but he did get the chance to work with the coach first-hand as the assistant coach to the Dickinson College team up until Evans’ retirement in 1986. Falk met Evans when he was playing at Gettysburg College and Evans was coaching at Bucknell, and Evans had called Falk when Dickinson was in need of an assistant.
“I was with him the whole time he was a varsity coach at Dickinson,” said Falk, who noted that they were coach and assistant coach at Dickinson for 10 years. “Over time, we became friends. When you go from high school to college, everything gets bigger and quicker and a little more intense. He was a very intense coach and, in a very good way, demanding of the kids.”
Like Dieter, Falk learned a few techniques while coaching with Evans – something that came in handy in his own games with the Boiling Springs girls’ basketball team.
“He was the master of the 2-3 zone,” Falk said. “That’s the staple of our girls’ team. It’s always been our No. 1 defense. I owe it all to him, because we play it just like he played it. His peers know he was one of the most intelligent people in sports. He could analyze anything out there. It was a great time, and I often said if he was still coaching, I would be an assistant as long as he would coach. It was the best job I’ve ever had.”
But for both Falk and Dieter, it wasn’t just the job that connected them with Evans. There were a lot of off-the-court discussions that signaled to them how important the players were to Evans, both as athletes and as human beings.
“I learned a lot about basketball and life from him,” Falk said. “He was always very concerned about the person rather than the basketball player. He was concerned with their entire collegiate career.”
Dieter was one of those players in whom Evans had taken an interest and kept in touch with after Dieter graduated from Carlisle High School in 1976.
“He was always there for anybody who needed advice,” Dieter said. “When I was thinking about transferring to another college, Gene helped with that transition. He sent me contacts from other schools to talk to.”
Evans was also a constant figure in Dieter’s life even after college, when he began coaching at Boiling Springs High School. It wasn’t unusual to find Evans sitting in the stands while one of his proteges was on the court coaching.
“It made me a little nervous,” Dieter laughed. “Me and Billy Callahan (who played for Dickinson College) used to joke that he would only show up on big games and we’d lose. But I did win a couple of big ones when he was there.
“We could always come to him afterward and ask about the game. He’d never tell you how to do things – he just told you what he saw. (Rick Falk) and I talk about Gene all the time. It’s pretty amazing that the boys’ head coach and the girls’ head coach is connected to him.”