Dan Van Hise focused on soccer during his days at Hightstown High but he gained a passion for basketball at college.
“I went to Syracuse University and developed a strong love for the game,” said Van Hise, 32, a 2003 graduate of Syracuse.
“In my previous job, I got the chance to see some of Coach Boeheim’s [legendary Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim] practices. I knew that if I ended up teaching, I would want to coach.”
Van Hise ended up teaching in the Princeton school system and coached the John Witherspoon boys’ team two years ago and was the head coach of Princeton High boys’ JV squad last winter.
While Van Hise enjoyed coaching the boys, he will be now be looking to develop the PHS girls’ team into a winner as he has taken the helm of that program.
“I met with John Miranda; I was thinking to myself that I wanted to stick with the boys, I liked where I am and where the program was going,” said Van Hise.
“John said that if I love basketball the way I do, it doesn’t make any difference whether you are coaching boys or girls.”
With the girls’ squad having gone 4-14 last winter and endured a steady diet of losing seasons in recent years, Van Hise is looking forward to the challenge of rebuilding the program.
“It is nice to get experience as a varsity head coach and I like the idea of taking over a program that has been stuck in the mud and getting it competitive,” said Van Hise, who is replacing Steffanie Shoop. “It is exciting.”
In Van Hise’s view, job one for him is to change the mentality around the program.
“Our main thing is to establish a culture of commitment, sportsmanship, and team work,” said Van Hise, whose team opens regular season play by hosting Allentown on December 20.
“I want them committed to basketball from December to March. We want to get something in place this year that we can build on.”
The PHS offense will be built around senior star forward and co-captain Liz Jacobs.
“On offense, we are going to go through Liz and play motion around her,” said Van Hise of the talented Jacobs, who is heading to Dartmouth next year where she will be playing lacrosse.
“We are trying to get Liz to think a little more on the court. She is used to getting the ball and going to the hoop. We want her to realize that she has teammates who can shoot and she can kick it out to them. We are going to run sets for her.”
Other options for the Little Tigers at forward include junior Mira Shane, junior Catherine Curran-Groome, senior Bryanna Blue, and junior Mia Levy.
“Mira is a glue girl; she talks on defense and does the little things,” said Van Hise, who will also be using freshmen Zoe Tesone and junior Ellie Maltby inside.
“Catherine worked hard in the offseason; her jump shot has really improved. Bryanna Blue is also on the mix in the frontcourt. Mia has that Levy skill, she has good court sense, sometimes her brain is ahead of her feet. She could be a player that surprises.”
PHS features two skilled players starting at guard in sophomore Julia Ryan and junior Mary Sutton.
“Julia Ryan will be the lead guard; she did a lot of work in the offseason and played AAU,” said Van Hise, who also has senior co-captain Stephanie Hauer and sophomore Crystal Wang at guard.
“She looks good and is confident on the court. She can spot up and hit her jumper or go to the basket. Mary is a good hard worker and a strong ballhandler. She can hit an open shot. We need her to be smarter with the ball, patience is a big thing for her.”
Sophomore Haley Bodden, a girls’ soccer star for PHS, will provide good depth at both guard and forward.
“Haley will be coming off the bench; she hustles and is aggressive,” said Van Hise. “She is an athlete. She can also play forward.”
Van Hise is looking for aggressiveness across the board this winter. “We won four games last season and I would like to double that,” said Van Hise.
“Defensively, they need to be willing to stop girls and not just hope that shots don’t go in. They need to be tough. On offense, we need to be patient, we can’t get uncomfortable and just jack up a shot. We need to be more patient and work the ball from the inside out.”