York Comprehensive High School's new boys' basketball coach, Justin Zaleski, met his team May 23 at the school. Zaleski comes to York from Crest High School, located in Shelby, N.C., and takes over from three-year coach Michael Gossett.
After the brief introduction with current and potential York players, Zaleski noted several reasons he was interested in his new job. He has fifth grade and high school-aged children that he should be able to see a little more often, given York's closer proximity to his Gastonia, N.C. home. He felt the school had huge boys' basketball potential that hasn't been fully mined. And he was drawn to York's facilities, staff, its general environment.
"You've got all the amenities here to build a successful program," Zaleski said.
York athletic director Joey Moore knew that Gossett was pondering a resignation/retirement and they spoke on a Friday in early May. Gossett mulled his options over the ensuing weekend and told Moore the following Monday that he was stepping down.
Gossett was hired in 2015 after previously coaching for 19 years at Northwestern. The Cougars won just four games his first season but they made the playoffs this past season, after finishing third in a tough Region 3-4A.
York received between 15 and 20 applications for the opening, and school administrators interviewed four candidates.
Zaleski becomes York's sixth boys' basketball coach in nine years. He follows Kendall McCarter, Ali Patton, Larry Dixon, Michael Dalton and Gossett, who had the longest tenure of the previous five coaches.
In several of those instances, York simply had bad luck. Dalton left York for family reasons, while Dixon vacated the head job to take an assistant coaching position at NCAA Division I Georgia Southern University. Patton resigned for "personal reasons", later revealed as an inappropriate relationship with a student.
"We've had trouble with the longevity of our boys' basketball coaches," said Moore. "For various reasons, we've lost them, and when you're interviewing somebody that's definitely something you're looking to try and correct. You're looking for someone that's gonna be here long-term and give us some consistency with the program.
"We feel like he'll be here long-term," Moore added. "We sure hope so."
Zaleski led Crest to 23 wins during the 2014-15 season, but the Chargers won just 14 games the last two years combined. Zaleski also coached extensively in Georgia high school basketball before moving to Shelby, N.C.
"He's a social studies teacher, teaches AP courses, and, from all his references, previous principals and ADs, he's very organized, very thorough," said Moore. "He got high remarks as an excellent classroom teacher and as an excellent coach."
Zaleski takes over a program that loses several talented seniors, including forward Cameron Jones and guard Malcolm Kennedy, who signed with Coker recently. The new coach's job is made tougher by the Cougars' region, one of the best 4A leagues in the state.
"We want to be more than just competitive in our region," Moore said.