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Basketball: Bauersfeld finds welcome change of pace with Paladins
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Pinecrest boys basketball coach John Bauersfeld (crouching, center) works with the Paladins during a team camp at Birmingham-Southern College. Photo courtesy Chris Kane/Pinecrest Academy

Pinecrest Academy athletic director Chris Kane only needs two words to describe the process of hiring the Paladins’ newest boys basketball coach:

Divine intervention.

Kane was looking for a new head coach this spring, and roughly two weeks after the job was posted, he received an email from John Bauersfeld on a Sunday afternoon.

“When I saw his resume, I was like, ‘My gosh. Wow, is this for real?’” Kane said.

Bauersfeld was coming from Calvert Hall College High School, a Baltimore school rich in talent and history that Kane recognized from his days at West Catholic in Philadelphia, and had spent over a decade in the basketball hotbed of the mid-Atlantic, coaching talented players that landed on Division I and NBA squads in the process.

But he was looking for a change, and Pinecrest was more than happy to be his next landing spot.

“I knew before he met with the (hiring) committee that he was probably the guy,” Kane said. “Probably about five minutes in, I could tell on the rest of the committees’ faces that he was the guy. This was meant to be.”

During Bauersfeld’s time working in Baltimore, his team was a powerhouse in the Baltimore Catholic League, winning 209 games and both regular season and tournament championships. He coached nine Division I players, including Damion Lee, who played for the Atlanta Hawks this past season. He went abroad twice on coaching trips, including a trip to Spain last year to be an assistant under hall of famer Larry Brown on the USA East Coast team, made up of college players.

But all that winning came at a cost. Bauersfeld often found himself busy recruiting 13-year-olds at AAU tournaments to keep his team competitive. After 11 years, he grew weary of continually worrying about competing for talent with the other schools in his league.

“The grind of competing in a league like the Catholic League is difficult,” Bauersfeld said. “There’s a lot of recruiting that goes on. The rules of recruiting are not as strict as they are, it seems, in Georgia. It’s tough. There’s a lot of hours spent where I’m kind of chasing eighth graders around trying to convince them to come to Calvert Hall and I just got tired of doing it. It just kind of wore on me and I felt like I needed a change for myself and my family.”

Those demands left Bauersfeld looking for a change of pace. When he found Pinecrest, he didn’t know how connected he and the Paladins already were.

When Kane received Bauersfeld’s application, he reached out to an old friend who happened to be on Bauersfeld’s list of references – Brother John Kane, Calvert Hall’s president and Kane’s athletic director at West Catholic. Chris Kane soon discovered that Bauersfeld’s application was not a case of a coach testing the market: It was a legitimate sign of interest.

Pinecrest brought in a few other candidates to interview for the job, but Bauersfeld was always the favorite. When Kane finally got a chance to meet him in person, he did not disappoint.

“He was even better in person than his resume looked on paper,” Kane said. “He’s someone who gets it. I’ll never forget, the first thing he said in the interview was, ‘I’m a teacher and an educator who coaches basketball.’ That’s what this place is looking for.”

Bauersfeld’s hire was announced on April 18, and despite the distance between Maryland and Georgia, he got to work with the Paladins. In mid-June, he received his first chance to lead Pinecrest on the floor against outside competition, at a team camp at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama.

One game stood out to Bauersfeld as an example of the kind of tenacity he hopes his team will show throughout the upcoming season. With 45 seconds left to play against an Alabama school, Pinecrest was down by five. After two off-the-mark shots, Bauersfeld called a timeout.

“I was like, ‘We’re going to win this game’ and they responded,” he said. “We ended up hitting two 3s, they missed a free throw and we ended up winning by one. Just to see their confidence kind of grow from that, I felt was really cool. We’re capable of doing some good things.”

One of the biggest reasons for Bauersfeld accepting the Pinecrest job was the prospect of building an entire program from the ground up, from middle school all the way up to high school. While teaching the game itself will be critical, he believes that something even bigger will be the key to the Paladins reaching the state playoffs in his first year.

“From what I gathered, they weren’t too far away last year,” he said. “The bigger thing for me is the culture of the program – the effort level you give every day, the attitude level of the program. I think that’s number one.”