A longtime coach, teacher and administrator in the district, Hite will be a varsity head basketball coach for the first time.
The new head coach of the Manchester High School girls basketball team is not really a new coach at all.
Instead, it is a man whose name and face are quite familiar to many people in at the school and in the Manchester community.
Anthony J. "A.J." Hite, who has been at the high school for 24 years as a teacher, serving in administration and coaching boys basketball, has gotten the job. His hiring was approved by the Manchester Board of Education at its regular meeting Tuesday. He was chosen from an original list of 10 applicants.
The current Manchester resident and Barberton native, 47, succeeds Shawn Zavodeny, who resigned recently after serving for three seasons.
"I’m definitely excited to get this opportunity," Hite said. "I’m ready to get going. I know we can’t have open gyms and get the players onto the floor yet because of the coronavirus situation, but we’ll be ready when we’re permitted to do it."
School facilities in the Manchester district, along with those around the state, were closed last month and will remain so for the remainder of the academic year.
"Who knows when A.J. will be able to meet with the whole team, but we’re really happy with him taking over the program," Manchester Schools Superintendent James Robinson said. "He’s well-vested in the school system and well-respected. He knows the Manchester community. And he really knows basketball.
"So, we think he’s a great fit for the program."
This will be Hite’s first basketball head-coaching job at the high school, and his second head-coaching position overall there. He coached the Manchester boys track team for three years from 1997-99. He also was head coach of the Manchester Middle School eighth-grade boys basketball team for the 2015-16 season.
Hite has been an assistant boys varsity coach and junior varsity coach for 17 of the past 20 years under Gene Schindewolf.
"I had a lot of responsibility under Gene. He let me do a lot of things that most assistants don’t get to do," said Hite, who is currently an English teacher and has also served as assistant principal and athletics director at Manchester.
Hite said as he got older, "I kind of thought it wasn’t going to happen with me being a head basketball coach. And I was OK with that. I was enjoying being an assistant coach."
The girls basketball coaching opening was posted at about the same time that the Manchester boys team was finishing its season with a last-second loss to Wellington in the sectional tournament.
"After about a day of two, I kind of tentatively put my name on the list of those people interested," Hite said. "But before I officially put my name into the mix, I wanted to go home and talk it over with my family over the weekend to see what they thought. They liked the idea, so I went after it."
Included in that conversation along with his wife, Amy, and their son, Dominic, who was a senior at Manchester this year, was their daughter, Corinne, who was a freshman on this past season’s team.
"I told her, ‘You’re going to be playing for your dad, so it’s going to be different,’ " Hite said. "She was OK with it."
Hite has never coached his daughter in basketball. He did coach her in travel softball last summer. She is also a member of the Manchester girls softball team.
"A.J. made it clear to us – three times, if I’m not mistaken -- in our conversations with him that he wanted to be in this for the long haul, not just for the time that his daughter is playing," Robinson said.
Added Hite, "I’m not going to leave after she graduates. Manchester is a place where coaches tend to stay a long time. I want to stay a long time, too. I want to keep doing this."
The Panthers have struggled for the last four seasons. They will return almost everyone from a team that finished 10-14 overall and 3-9 in the Principals Athletic Conference this year.
"The cupboard is definitely not bare. This is not a rebuilding job," Hite said. "We’ve got a good group here at the high school, and we have a good group coming up from the middle school. The eighth-grade team played for the PAC tournament championship."
Before the recent varsity struggles, the Panthers had been the dominant team in the PAC for most of the previous 15 seasons under coaches Bob Eckert and Tucker Pappas.
"There’s real tradition here. We know that, and we respect that and what those teams did for so long," said Hite, who will have as assistant coaches the husband-and-wife duo of Duane and Loralee Daily and former Panthers point guard Grier Cowles. "We want to get back to that, but it won’t be easy because the PAC is strong. There are good coaches throughout it, and a lot of talent, so we’re going to have to be ready to play. We have some ideas on what we’d like to do, but again, we’re going to have to wait to start working on any of that.
"But whatever we do, this has to be fun for everybody involved. We want the girls to enjoy playing. That’s important."
Perhaps the only thing Hite is really worried about is the seating arrangement on the bench once the season starts.
"I’ve been an assistant coach for so long that at first, I’m probably going to take the second seat in from the front," Hite said. "Then I’m going to realize, ‘Oh, I’m the head coach now, so I guess I have to move over a spot.’ "