Upper St. Clair basketball coach Danny Holzer talks WPIAL titles, his successful career, son’s hockey exploits

Tuesday, March 16, 2021 | 3:45 PM

It was a great week of sports for the Holzer household.

Thomas Jefferson’s hockey team, sparked by senior forward Riley Holzer’s two goals, beat Baldwin, 3-1, on March 9 to climb into a tie for first place in the PIHL Class AA Southwest Division.

Two days later, the Jaguars skated past South Fayette, 8-4, to end the week with a near-perfect 15-1-0-1 record.

Upper St. Clair’s boys basketball team, led by veteran coach Danny Holzer, won two WPIAL Class 6A playoff games last week, including a 56-53 decision Friday against Pine-Richland in the finals.

The Panthers also defeated playoff nemesis Butler, 70-62, on March 9 and will take a 14-game winning streak and dazzling 20-1 record into the PIAA tournament.

Danny Holzer, 56, is in his 26th season in charge of the USC boys basketball program.

He has had a distinguished career that includes three WPIAL championships (1996, 2005, ‘21), one WPIAL runner-up finish, seven section titles and a 442-206 record. The Panthers have advanced to the WPIAL playoffs 22 times in the past 26 years.

USC has compiled a 60-10 record over the past three years, including a 54-7 regular-season mark, going 19-3, 19-3 and 16-1.

Prior to his lengthy stint at USC, Holzer was an assistant at Duquesne University from 1991-95, Cal (Pa.) from 1989-91 and Thomas Jefferson from 1987-89.

He was a three-year starter at TJ and a 1983 graduate. Holzer also played in college at Alliance and earned his teaching degree from Edinboro in 1987. He has been a teacher at USC for 24 years. He teaches American history at the 11th grade level.

Holzer took time following the WPIAL championship game to participate in a Q&A interview:

Q. What makes this year’s Upper St. Clair team as good as it is?

A. This year’s team plays incredibly unselfish. On both defense and offense, everyone knows their role and executes it.

Q. What are some of the team’s intangibles that maybe we don’t see in the games?

A. On and off the court, this team cheers for one another. Truly, no one cares who gets the credit. Everyone just wants to win.

Q. What did you think about the team’s performance in the WPIAL championship game against Pine-Richland?

A. I thought our performance was similar to what it’s been like all year. The kids played hard and together and refused to lose.

Q. What were the keys to winning the game? What was your gameplan?

A. We needed to take good shots against their tough, half-court defense and get to the rim as much as possible. Defensively, we had to make sure we minimized their open perimeter shots.

Q. You were probably the happiest person in the gym following the WPIAL championship game, thanking the players, students, cheerleaders and USC fans. What does winning this title mean to you and to the program?

A. I have been at USC for 26 years, and I truly love the people and community. I was just so happy for our players who have worked so hard.

Q. What were your expectations for the USC team at the beginning of the season?

A. We had high expectations and thought if we played to the best of our ability we could win the WPIAL. I’m really proud of my team for overcoming so many obstacles to get to the championship.

Q. What type of obstacles?

A. The shutdowns. We were shut down twice during the season.

Q. Where does this year’s team rank in terms of the best teams that you have coached at USC?

A. We have won three WPIAL titles. All three teams are special.

Q. What are your expectations for the PIAA tournament?

A. One game at a time and (we) could make a run.

Q. Do you know anything about either possible first-round opponent, Erie or Altoona?

A. I know Erie is an athletic team. I will do a lot of research this week.

Q. Finally, how much did you enjoy your son’s performance against Baldwin in last week’s PIHL game?

A. I was really impressed with how well the entire (TJ) team played to beat a really good Baldwin team. I was really happy for my son. Having two goals on his senior night in a big win was really special.

In 2004-05, Upper St. Clair racked up a 27-3 record in Class 4A, won WPIAL and section titles, and advanced to the PIAA second round. That season, the Panthers were led by Sean Lee, now a veteran linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys.

USC also captured a WPIAL crown in 1995-96 and was 22-6, and finished as a WPIAL runner-up in 2002-03 and ended up 27-4.

“One of the things I enjoy most about coaching high school basketball is the life lessons it teaches our student-athletes, and myself as well,” Holzer said. “Learning how to deal with success and failure is an ongoing life experience for all of us.

“Having so many players stay in touch and come back and see us is what I enjoy the most about USC. We have so many successful young men.”

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