JACKSON TWP — Finding one’s niche is often used to describe a player’s ability to settle into a defined role on a sports team.
Jim Pyle has carved a deep one as a coach with Seneca Valley’s boys basketball program.
A 1997 SV graduate, Pyle has been an assistant with the Raiders for 16 seasons, beginning with a two-year stint as head coach of the freshman team in 2002.
“I’ve tried to give back as much as I received at Seneca Valley,” said Pyle, a boys physical education teacher at the intermediate high school. “It’s a great district to work for and I’m fortunate to have had the chance to come back.”
Pyle grew up in Cranberry Township and played for three different head coaches as a varsity basketball player at SV — Rick Taft, George Trew and Dave Podbielski. He said all three instilled in him qualities of hard work and dedication. However, it wasn’t until he was in college that he gained an interest in coaching.
While earning a Health and Physical Education degree at Indiana (Pa.) University, Pyle coached elementary kids in the Indiana area in several sports, including basketball for three seasons.
After graduating, he returned to Seneca Valley and immediately began coaching SV’s freshmen under then-varsity head coach Rob Naylor. When Victor Giannotta took over the program prior to the 2004-05 season, Pyle was elevated to assistant coach of the junior varsity team for two years, then JV head coach for eight seasons.
He has been strictly a varsity assistant for the past four years.
“Coach Giannotta and I are on the same page 90 percent of the time,” said Pyle, 39. “There are times when we have to talk through some things, but as the head coach, he has the final say.”
Pyle is part of a staff that includes fellow assistants Joe Venasco, Todd Schoeffel and Bill Andrews.
“I enjoy working with all of those guys,” added Pyle. “I think the players see how we (coaches) get along and that filters down to them.”
Coaching as long as he has, it’s only natural for Pyle to think about leading his own program.
“Eight years into coaching here, there were several opportunities for me to become a head coach,” he said. “But that was right when we started to turn things around here at Seneca Valley. I had formed bonds with the coaches and players and didn’t want to leave the program at that point.”
There is another factor that currently has Pyle feeling comfortable in his role as an assistant. He and his wife, Jessica, have two children, daughter Allison (6) and son Tyler (4).
“I want to be there for Seneca Valley and I also want to be there for my kids,” he said. “Being a head coach would be a lot to balance. I am where I want to be.”