There are hoops diehards who live and breathe basketball this time of year. Then, there is the Bair family, who are not just lovers of the game but a built-in group of coaches and a Division I player from a quaint Pennsylvania town .
“You would be hard pressed to find a family watching more hours of women’s college basketball a week right now,” says Sean Bair, an assistant coach for Monmouth University women’s basketball.
The title of D1 player belongs to Sean’s sister, Anne Bair, who hails from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Growing up in a family obsessed with basketball, Bair was set up early for success. Her career has taken her to Manhattan College and a ticket on the D1 circuit which has led to starting point guard duties for the Jaspers as a sophomore.
“Playing college basketball at any Division One school is hard,” Anne’s father, Jeff, said. “We are thankful that she has supporting coaches and teammates.”
Bair plays with a tenacity hard to miss as a leader on this year’s Manhattan team off to a 3-2 start. She combines it with basketball smarts, which are equal parts inherent and absorbed from the line of coaches in her family. Jeff says she has a trait of making everyone else around her “a little more successful.”
“She was quick to set personal goals for areas of improvement and her game has grown in many ways,” Jeff says of Anne’s development as a player at Manhattan.
According to Anne, it’s about knowing her role as a point guard and being an extension of the coach on the court. Her first basketball coach in life made that possible.
“Having that father-daughter relationship with my dad where we just talked basketball together and I understood philosophy,” Bair said, referencing her father’s impact on her career.
Jeff Bair was the boys and girls coach at Gettysburg High School, having coached Anne for the entirety of her high school career. Before that, he coached Sean on the boys’ basketball team at Gettysburg.
Jeff is the standard bearer, paving a path into coaching which lasted 30 years before announcing his retirement from Gettysburg this past spring.
“My father has been an amazing steward of the game for the entire Gettysburg community,” Sean says.
For Gettysburg, 2013 was big for yielding a division title on the boys’ side.
A few years later, he jumped at the girls job when it opened up. It was the perfect timing with Anne approaching her high school years.
His record coaching the girls was 104-52 over six seasons and he won a pair of District 3 Class 5A Championships. But as great as those accomplishments were, so was coaching Sean and Anne over a decade apart.
“Sean understood what we went through together and probably appreciates it more now,” Jeff says. “Coaching Anne in high school was not expected or planned, but it became a wonderful run of success.”
The grind of the profession means there’s always something going on. Sean has experienced the nuances of that going from stints on staff for the University of Arkansas men’s basketball program and Penn State women’s basketball program, to being head coach of New Oxford High School boys basketball team in New Oxford, Pennsylvania, to now honing his craft at Monmouth.
“The recruiting never stops,” Sean said. “That feeling of knowing you had a hand in their success and the relationships you build in that process are fundamental to why we all do this.”
Then, there is Ellen Bair, Anne’s older sister and another coach in the family.
Ellen was unsure if coaching was even a possibility until she lived abroad working as a volunteer with the Peace Corps. She was homesick, missing out on Anne’s freshman year of high school playing for Jeff.
But once the switch flipped, Ellen was hooked.
“The relationships,” Ellen said about why she loves coaching. “The players and their families make all the stress and frustrations worth it.”
She spent three seasons coaching the girls’ team at Linden Hall School in Lititz, Pennsylvania and compiled a 47-12 record. In addition to coaching at Shipley, Ellen is an assistant for Philly Rise EYBL, the reigning national champs in AAU.
“There are definitely days where I wonder what I'd be doing if I hadn't taken my first coaching job,” Ellen said. “I've now gotten in so deep it's almost like weird to imagine making a change.”
Anne wants to get to that point of being a coach too. All the practices and keeping track of stats is forever grained in her existence. The family gene is a real thing, too.
“I want to coach because I have seen first-hand the impact they have made on their players and in communities,” Anne said of her family members.
She knows who she wants right next to her when that time comes.
“Hopefully when I become a coach he’ll come out of retirement,” Anne says of her father. “The four years in high school I played for him were so special and memories I will cherish for a lifetime.”