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Atholton social studies teacher to coach girls basketball team Eckert says he'll stress fundamentals


Paul Eckert, who decided to change careers and become a high school teacher three years ago, will try another new job this fall when he takes over Atholton's girls basketball team.

Eckert, a 29-year-old social studies teacher at Atholton -- his alma mater -- replaces Graydon Webster. Webster coached the Raiders for nine seasons before resigning two months ago.

"I don't know if I'm going to replace him [Webster]. I'll try to succeed him," said Eckert, who coaches Atholton's junior varsity baseball team and assisted varsity boys basketball coach Jim Albert for the past two years. He also has coached the junior varsity volleyball team.

"It was a tough choice. [Atholton principal] Scott [Pfeifer] asked me if I wanted the JV boys [basketball team] or the varsity girls team," he said.

"I feel a lot of loyalty toward Jimmy, but I also thought, 'When am I going to get an opportunity like this?' It will be a challenge, for sure."

Eckert inherits a program in decline. The Raiders, who competed for county titles and made the playoffs routinely during the last half of the 1980s, nose-dived in the last two years of Webster's tenure.

The Raiders posted a combined 14-31 record and failed to qualify for the playoffs in either season. Four starters from last season's 8-14 team graduate next month. Among the starters, ** only point guard Allison Valentino will return in November.

"The cupboard is pretty bare, relatively speaking," Eckert said.

"I wish I could say I'm stepping into a position where we can contend for a title, but we've got a lot to work on, beginning with fundamentals. In the short term, I just want to build up interest in the program, get the girls to concentrate on basketball in the off-season and get us to compete."

Eckert graduated from Atholton in 1980 and attended Washington College in Chestertown, Md., for two years, before transferring to the University of Maryland.

He graduated from Maryland with a bachelor's degree in communications in 1984, then worked for several years as a government contract negotiator.

Three years ago, Eckert decided to switch careers.

He began to pursue a master's degree in education, and went on to work at several county high schools as a substitute teacher. Last year, he was a part-time teacher at Atholton. He expects to earn his degree this summer.

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