Basketball coach Rob Niederberger, who lifted Shaler from last place to WPIAL contender, resigns

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Friday, April 12, 2024 | 12:25 AM


When Shaler hired Rob Niederberger as boys basketball coach nine years ago, he took over a team mired in last place. He resigned Thursday knowing the next coach will inherit a program that’s in a much better position.

The Titans are coming off a 25-win season and a sixth straight playoff appearance.

“That’s honestly part of what makes it easier,” Niederberger said of his exit. “We have some talented kids coming up. You don’t want to leave it bare.”

Shaler went 106-98 combined in his nine seasons, but that total doesn’t tell the whole story of Shaler’s transformation. The team finished last in its section in three consecutive seasons before Neiderberger was hired in 2015.

Still, the turnaround wasn’t instant.

The Titans finished 2-20 in his first year and went 3-19 in year two. But they showed tangible improvement with eight wins in year three before stringing together six straight winning seasons.

They went 101-59 in the past six years.

“When I came in, Shaler was one of the worst basketball programs in the state,” Niederberger said. “They had won five section games combined in the three previous years. It was bad. There weren’t many kids and they were losing games by 40.

“We went 5-39 my first two years, but everyone bought in. The kids bought in, the parents bought in, because they knew we were doing it the right way. But you can’t always get the results you want right away. It takes time.”

This winter was their best season together. Shaler went 25-4 overall, won the Section 2-5A title and reached the WPIAL semifinals and state quarterfinals. It was Shaler’s first 20-win season since 2012.

“It’s a lesson for a lot of younger guys out there who I think are chasing talent,” Niederberger said. “It doesn’t matter where you go. If you’re willing to put in work and believe in what you’re doing, you’re going to be able to turn the ship.”

The Titans just made their third state playoff appearance in six years. With a senior-led lineup, they held this season’s opponents to 48.1 points per game, which ranked best in WPIAL 5A. Three of their four losses and both postseason defeats came against Franklin Regional, the eventual state runner-up.

The 43-year-old Niederberger said he knew throughout the winter that this was likely his last season. He and his wife Carrie have three children: Rock, 12, Rose, 11 and Layla, 9. They all play sports, and Niederberger said he was eager to spend more time with them.

“Doing the math, they were little at the time I came to Shaler,” he said. “Now I have a son who’s in middle school and is ready to play school ball next year. My daughter Rose is right behind him. I would struggle missing that. You put so much time in with other kids. I would’ve been wondering, ‘What am I doing here?’”

Niederberger was head coach at Burrell from 2010-13 and led the Bucs to the WPIAL finals in his last year there. He said he’s stepping away from coaching but didn’t rule out a return sometime in the future.

“You never say never, but I do look forward to watching my kids and relaxing,” he said. “Someone once told me, ‘When you become a head varsity coach, it’s your first thought in the morning and your last thought at night.’ That’s honestly true.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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