KARNS CITY, Pa.(EYT/D9) — When Ally Kepple and her brother, Zach Kepple, visit, the conversation inevitably turns to basketball.
Ally is in her fifth season as the head varsity girls basketball coach at Union. Zach is in his first season as the head varsity boys basketball coach at Karns City.
When they talk, Zach picks Ally’s brain and vice versa.
“We’re always talking after games, about what went really well and what didn’t go well,” Zach said. “We talk about different things that work and things that don’t work and give each other pointers.
“And, you know,” Zach adds, flashing a grin, “we make fun of each other about a few things here and there. It’s a great relationship to have.”
That’s what siblings do, after all.
Before they became a rare brother-sister coaching duo at different schools within District 9, both were standout players in multiple sports at Karns City.
Ally, a 2008 graduate, excelled in four sports: soccer, basketball, softball and track and field. Zach, a 2011 grad, starred in football, basketball and track and field.
They have something else in common: neither thought they’d be a varsity basketball coach one day.
Not in a million years.
Ally was content with being an assistant coach at Union, where she has taught sixth grade and English language arts since 2013. She enjoyed the analytics of coaching, breaking down the other team’s strengths and weaknesses and interacting with the players in support of the head coach, Lacey Magagnotti.
But when Magagnotti stepped down before the 2017-18 season, Ally had a decision to make.
Pursue the job, or not.
She decided to go for it and was hired.
“I never really thought I’d be a varsity coach,” Ally said. “I liked being the assistant there when I first got hired. Now, I absolutely love it.”
Coaching basketball was never in Zach’s thoughts, either.
He was a football guy. Zach played on the offensive line at Grove City College for four years and took an interest in coaching football. He has served as the offensive coordinator for Karns City for several seasons.
But when former boys basketball coach Chris Bellis was looking for an assistant, he sought out Zach for the job.
Zach was taken aback at the offer at first, but then accepted.
Bellis stepped down this summer and Zach was hired as his replacement.
“From the time I started playing sports when I was young, I knew I definitely wanted to stay involved when I was done playing,” Zach said. “I always wanted to coach, but I didn’t see myself as a basketball coach, that’s for sure.
“Chris asked me to be his assistant a couple of years ago, and I’m glad he did because I love it. It’s a completely different thing than football. Different coaching styles. I’m grateful I had the opportunity.”
Zach is off to a good start in his first season. The Gremlins are 11-2 and are one of the top teams in Class 2A in the district.
Ally has a talented team at Union, too, this season with designs on doing big things.
The two Kepples run similar offensive and defensive sets.
“His one defense I’ve run a little bit because I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s a really good idea,’” Ally said.
Even her players see the similarities.
Senior Dominika Logue attended an A-C Valley at Karns City boys basketball game and joked with Ally the next day about it.
“She’s like, ‘I’m sitting there and your brother’s yelling out the plays,’” Ally said. “‘I know that play. Oh, I know that play.’ So, yeah, we do a lot of the same things.”
They are also quiet on the bench.
Rarely do either of them raise their voices.
“My girls make fun of me,” Ally said. “They tell me all the time they can’t hear me when I’m calling out the plays. I think I’m yelling. So, Zach and I have that in common.”
As the two oldest of four siblings: they have younger brothers, Tyler and Noah, who are also both KC grads, they did have something of a rivalry growing up.
When the Kepples would split into teams, Ally and Zach were always on opposing sides.
“We tried to make the teams even,” Ally said. “Zach and I were never on the same team.”
“We were always playing something,” Zach said. “We were always competing. There was always something in the backyard that we were going at it against each other in.”
Ally tries to watch as many Karns City boys games as she can during the season, either streaming or in person. Zach also tries to catch as many Union girls games as he can.
It’s not easy, but they make the effort.
Both are grateful they have a sounding board in their own family.
“She was excited when I got the job,” Zach said. “I was excited. She said she’d help me through some things because she’s been through it and she has. She’s been a huge asset to me. She has more experience than I do. It’s just really neat we are both basketball coaches now.”