Respected off the court as much as on it, Bob Schlosser led Elizabethtown College men’s basketball with dignity and class for the last 27 seasons. Schlosser, the longest-tenured and winningest head coach in program history, announced Tuesday morning that he will retire at the end of the 2016-17 season.
The numbers are impressive: 363 victories, 15 postseason appearances, four trips to the NCAA Tournament, three conference championships and 2001-02 NCAA Division III national runner-up.
For those that know Schlosser, be it former player, assistant coach, manager, colleague, student, family or friend, it has never been about the numbers. It’s about people and relationships; Schlosser has had an impact on thousands during his time as head basketball coach and associate director of athletics.
“It has been an honor, privilege and blessing to work at Elizabethtown College over the last 27 years,” Schlosser said. “I’ve been able to develop many relationships with students and student-athletes, but it’s also the relationships I’ve made with faculty, staff and everyone associated with the College that will stay with me for the rest of my days.”
Plucked from the scholastic coaching ranks by former athletic director, Ken Ober, after winning more than 200 games and two Pennsylvania state championships (1984 and 1986) at Allentown Central Catholic High School, Schlosser arrived at Elizabethtown in 1990 looking to stabilize a program breaking in its third head coach in as many seasons.
Schlosser took over a middling program that had two Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) titles and a matching number of trips to the NCAA Division III Tournament in its previous 62 seasons. By his third season, in 1992-93, Schlosser had the Blue Jays back in the MAC playoffs and national tournament for the first time since 1978-79.
Elizabethtown proceeded to qualify for the MAC playoffs seven times in eight years, before the MAC split into two conferences –the Commonwealth and the Freedom– before the 2000-01 season began. Schlosser guided the Jays to only their second 20-win season and a spot in the Commonwealth title game that season.
The real breakthrough came one year later.
With D3hoops.com All-America Honorable Mention Bob Porambo and Rocky Parise, a spark plug at the point, leading a cast of selfless and gritty players, Schlosser’s Blue Jays won a program record 29 games (29-3) and their first Commonwealth Conference championship on the way to the program’s first NCAA Division III Final Four appearance.
E-town outlasted the University of Rochester, 93-83, in overtime to reach the national championship game. Though they led 54-48 at halftime, the Blue Jays could not stop Otterbein from producing its own 54-point half in the second and came up one win shy of the ultimate prize, 102-83.
The 2001-02 season served as a springboard to a three-year run of unprecedented success for Elizabethtown. The Blue Jays went 18-9 in each of the next two seasons, won their second and third consecutive conference championships and received the Commonwealth Conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament in 2002-03 and 2003-04.
Schlosser, considered a master of the flex offense, entered the 2016-17 season with a .542 winning percentage (359-303), which ranked 47th in NCAA Division III amongst active head coaches. He has mentored 11 of Elizabethtown’s 32 1,000-point scorers and been named conference coach of the year four times (1992-93, 1998-99, 2000-01, 2001-02).
“We are so grateful for the outstanding commitment Bob Schlosser has made to our student-athletes, the athletic department, our faculty and staff, and the entire Elizabethtown College community,” said Director of Athletics Chris Morgan. “I’ve enjoyed my time working with and learning from Bob. He has a unique way of making everyone around him better. Bob has been an outstanding role model for our student-athletes and we are a better institution because of him.”
Schlosser has shared his love for the game of basketball countless times over the years, lecturing and speaking at camps and clinics and running annual summer camps. He and wife, Susan, have three sons: Ben, Sam and Will, each of whom got the coaching itch from their father.
Ben, a 2008 graduate of Elizabethtown College, played for his father from 2005-08 and has been by his side as an assistant coach with the Blue Jays for the last seven seasons. Sam is a 2010 E-town alum and currently in his fourth season as an assistant at Penn State Harrisburg. Will donned the Blue and Gray for three seasons, missing his senior year due to injury. The 2015 Elizabethtown grad is in his second year as a graduate assistant coach at Springfield College (Mass.).
“Bob Schlosser has set a high standard for coaching excellence and personal integrity as a coach at Elizabethtown College,” noted President Carl J. Strikwerda. “We will miss his work ethic, sense of fair play and deep belief in helping young people develop their talents.”
Vice President for Student Life & Dean of Students Marianne Calenda added, “Bob raised the bar for future generations of coaches and mentors at Elizabethtown by consistently modeling the importance of integrity and resilience and setting high expectations for excellence both on and off the court. He will be remembered for his investment in the whole student.”
The magnitude of Schlosser’s contributions to the sport have been well-recognized over the last three-plus decades. The Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, native starred as a player on Marian Catholic High School’s 1971 state championship team. He graduated in 1972 before playing collegiately at East Stroudsburg University from 1972-77, where he set the program’s career assists record of 465.
Schlosser’s 465 assists still rank third in ESU history. His single-game record 18 assists against Shippensburg in 1975 and single-season record 230 helpers as a sophomore in 1974-75 remain school records.
Schlosser was inducted into Marian Catholic’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2006. He has a spot on Allentown Central Catholic’s Rockne Wall of Fame and in recent years has been inducted into the Via Lehigh Valley Basketball Hall of Fame (2010) and Carbon County Hall of Fame (2016). In 2012, Schlosser and his national runner-up 2001-02 Elizabethtown men’s basketball team were inducted into the Ira R. Herr Athletic Hall of Fame.
“Elizabethtown College is truly a tremendous institution to be associated with,” Schlosser explained. “It’s a place where caring and family is of utmost importance. I thank the College for their support of all our athletic programs, especially my men’s basketball program, over the last 27 years.”
Schlosser will continue in his duties as head men’s basketball coach and associate director of athletics through the remainder of the 2016-17 academic year. The Blue Jays have three remaining home games: Saturday, Feb. 4, vs. Moravian (4 p.m.), Wednesday, Feb. 15, vs. Catholic (7 p.m.) and a Senior Day meeting with Susquehanna, Saturday, Feb. 18, at 2 p.m., in their regular season finale.