Tim Livingstone hopes to bring stability to Strath Haven boys’ basketball program

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Tim Livingstone (right) has been coaching with PSB Philly for the last four years. In addition, he will lead the Strath Haven boys’ basketball program. Read more

In the last few years, success has been sparse for the Strath Haven boys’ basketball team.

In the 2021-22 season, the Panthers limped to a 5-15 record, which they improved upon slightly in 2022-23, finishing 9-13.

However, in 2023-24, Strath Haven won its first contest, then dropped the remaining 19.

And while numerous variables influence program highs and lows, Tim Livingstone attributes much of the Panthers’ recent struggles to coaching inconsistency. Since Dave McFadden left in 2017, they’ve had three coaches in seven years, with Nick Horvath leaving near the end of his first season just a few months back.

“Is it the only contributing factor?” Livingstone asked. “Probably not. But without a doubt, it’s a contributing factor.”

Luckily for those in the Strath Haven community, if he’s right about that, then they now have a significant reason for optimism.

Livingstone, the newly appointed Panthers coach, is a longtime parent in the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District, which funnels students into Strath Haven High School. His youngest is still in middle school.

He says he doesn’t have aspirations for coaching at a larger high school or a college program, either. Strath Haven is, essentially, his dream coaching job. And if he gets his way, he’s staying put.

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“I’ve been trying to become a part of the Strath Haven staff for a while, and I couldn’t pass up this opportunity,” Livingstone said. “There’s so many great kids in this area, and they deserve someone that’s dedicated to being here and showing up every single day, and being there for the long term. That’s my goal and plan.

“I live less than a mile from the high school,” he added. “So, I can be in the building every single day, and will be in the building every single day.”

As he noted, consistency has been key for other highly successful programs at Strath Haven. The school’s football and baseball programs — consistently near the top of the Central League standings — have both had the same head coaches intact for decades.

As far as Livingstone can see, such successful programs point to the fact that there’s plenty of athletic talent available at Strath Haven.

“There are athletes in that building,” Livingstone said. “Short-term vision for myself is to get any and all athletes I can into the basketball program, but I think part of it is going to be that they need to trust that I’m not just here for the short term.”

Livingstone’s career background largely centers around corporate work in sales and leadership. It was only 2019 when he decided to make basketball coaching his full-time passion.

In that time, he’s been working with Pro Skills Basketball. This youth basketball organization serves dozens of locales across the United States and sponsors several AAU basketball teams, including PSB Philly.

This season will be his first working with one specific team at PSB, as opposed to two; that team, the program’s ninth-grade squad, features several players with whom he’s been able to work since they were sixth graders.

That being said, there’s always turnover in a developmental basketball program, and he said it’s taught him how to be an adaptable coach. In his eyes, that constant change, as well as the freedom to run his team in his own way, has set him up for what he hopes will be success in his new role.

“That constant change has been awesome,” he said. “I have to come up with every single practice plan. I love being able to structure it, and just getting to be really organized and structured, but also having some freedom built in for the kids to go play the game in their own respective styles. It’s been hugely beneficial.”

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During that same window of time, Livingstone has worked at Ridley High School, serving initially as the ninth-grade coach before moving into the role of junior varsity coach ahead of the 2022-23 school year.

Similarly to his work with PSB, a significant degree of freedom has allowed him to develop a coaching style and philosophy.

“I was really very fortunate to be in a great system,” he said. “They let pretty much do what I wanted with the JV teams.”

So, what exactly is that coaching style and philosophy?

For starters, it’s player-focused. He describes himself as “demanding,” but in the sense wants to empower his players to hold themselves to a high standard. Along the way, he also knows that one of the best ways to do so is to be a supportive and caring leadership figure.

“I learned a long time ago, an old Teddy Roosevelt quote,” he said. “‘No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.’ I’m there for them, I’m going to support them every single minute of every single day. I’ve got their back, but within that, I earn the right to hold them accountable when they don’t.”

In a similar vein, his emphasis is more on the details that lead to winning than the outcome itself; that’s a philosophy he developed in business, which translated well to the hardwood.

“In the corporate world, carrying a multimillion-dollar sales quota we’ve got to hit, instead of focusing on that, we’d break it down, reverse engineer it, and focus on what leads to hitting that,” he said. “It’s similar in basketball. We all want to win, but sweating that final score all the time leads to anxiousness and negative things happening. We focus on the winning plays, making the extra pass, cutting, screening, communication.”

It’s yet to be seen how Livingstone’s experience and philosophies will translate to a high school varsity coaching role, with a program in need of a turnaround.

But if Strath Haven wants, it will be able to enjoy Livingstone’s influence for quite a while.

“My plan is to be here forever,” he said.

This story was produced as part of a partnership between The Inquirer and City of Basketball Love, a nonprofit news organization that covers high school and college basketball in the Philadelphia area while also helping mentor the next generation of sportswriters. This collaboration will help boost coverage of the city’s vibrant amateur basketball scene, from the high school ranks up through the Big 5 and beyond.…Read more by Jeff Griffith

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