Anthony Eifler rarely seems hurried or nervous. He definitely didn’t seem that way sitting in his Dominion High School classroom, wearing khakis and a royal purple sweatshirt commemorating James Madison University's football championship.
This was his domain, one of the first Titans to graduate from Dominion High School. He was also the first point guard in Dominion basketball history, and that provided one of the few instances where he wasn’t the cool, calm and unflappable man he is today.
It was the team meeting before the first game of Dominion's inaugural season. Eifler, a starting guard, showed up late. Coach Doug Fulton was irate. “He almost benched me”, Eifler said with a small chuckle.
“He was a tough, aggressive player. Played bigger than he was,” Fulton said about Eifler.
Eifler was in the starting lineup. “Pregame warm-ups, I was on cloud nine,” he said. Adrenaline flowed through him as he hit every shot in warm-ups. That carried on through the game, as he finished with 18 points, the leading scorer in the first-ever game.
It was a special experience for Eifler, one he will never forget. His journey at Dominion could have ended two years later after he graduated, and it nearly did. Eifler went on to JMU, where he earned degrees in Marketing and Sports Management.
After graduating, Eifler worked in college athletics from 2007 to 2012, growing from a developmental intern at JMU to the Assistant Director of the Seahawk Club at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
“I will forever value my college athletics experience,” Eifler said. Through the job, Eifler was exposed to numerous coaches, including current West Virginia University head coach Bob Huggins, whom he saw him at practices and events and was able to learn.
Eifler continued to move around, learning from NCAA coaches Bobby Cremins, Mark Byington, Will Wade and others through coaching clinics and opportunities he gained through his time at these colleges. While Eifler said “Wade wouldn’t know me from you if he walked in the door”, the lessons he learned were incredibly valuable.
“I got to see how they run things, how they run their programs, what is important in building a student-athlete,” Eifler said.
However, Eifler quickly found out that he wasn’t cut out for college athletics. “I just figured I could climb the ladder and wanted to be an athletic director at a college.”
He always figured he would be a coach or a teacher at some point in his future. After a few years of being in the grind of college athletics, Eifler wanted to make a change. He called his mom while he was at UNC-Wilmington and told her he wanted to leave. “I just hate what I’m doing, I don’t want to do it anymore,” Eifler said.
His mother knew he had aspirations of being a teacher and gave him the advice that would later change his career path, “Call [Dominion principal] Dr. Brewer.”
What Eifler didn’t know was that there was a marketing teaching job open, one his mother knew about and wanted her son to take.
Before he knew it, Eifler was a marketing teacher at Dominion, the same school he once attended. He was looking around for any coaching jobs nearby, and he got his first one in 2012 as the freshman coach at the brand new John Champe High School in Aldie.
The team was not extremely talented. “There were 10 or 11 freshmen on JV, so I had freshman 11 through 25 on my team. I had several kids who wouldn’t have made any other freshman basketball team in the county,” Eifler said.
The team’s talent showed on the court. After a close loss against Heritage in the opener, the team plummeted, losing every game they played until the finale.
Eifler looked at his freshman team halfway through the year and said, “If you win a game this year, I’ll let you buzz my head.”
The Knights carried an 0-15 record into their final game of the year. Their opponent was Heritage.
The game wasn’t close, as John Champe won handily. The players rushed the court in elation and continued to celebrate in the locker room. The team mobbed their head coach, jumping over him, asking when they could bring out the clippers.
And bring out the clippers they did, giving Eifler a buzz cut that he still sports today.
A few years later in 2016, Eifler became the freshman coach at Briar Woods High School. He guided the Falcons to a 17-3 record, then was promoted to the be the J.V. coach, coaching the same kids he did just a year ago.
“This last year was a really cool experience, I moved up with my guys. Just an awesome, awesome group,” Eifler said, smiling with the memory. “I just love that group and had the opportunity to stay with 75 percent of my freshman team.”
It was a tough move, but the opportunity to become a head coach was enough to get Eifler to leave the Falcons.
While coaching basketball at Briar Woods, Eifler was an assistant coach for Dominion’s baseball team, where he coached under his now assistant basketball coach, Jeff Berg.
One of Eifler’s players, Mario Canestraro recounted a story where he was in a slump during the year. He and Eifler then made a bet. Every game Canestraro played well, Eifler would bring him a Mountain Dew the next day. “Eif has always been there for me, no matter what,” Canestraro said.
Eifler grinned, “I don’t like hot drinks. I don’t drink hot tea or coffee. I drink soda. Mountain Dew is my soda of choice.” Eifler would bring a soda to practice or class, and Canestraro would see it.
And so, the bet was made. If Canestraro pitched or hit well, he would have a Mountain Dew waiting for him the next day. The first time Eifler gave it to Canestraro, the pitcher said, “Oh I thought you were kidding!”
“I pay my bets,” Eifler said. “What’s been really cool about the baseball program is that we have a lot of good kids.” He learned a great deal there about running a program and hopes to use many of those same lessons to his head coaching position.
Eifler wants to implement a motion offense that runs in the open court when possible. “A lot of it depends on who I got," he explained. "I don’t have any choice in my players like a college coach.”
On defense, Eifler wants to pick up players 94 feet and play an aggressive form of man-to-man defense, forcing turnovers and turning defense into offense.
“I like him as our new coach because we move the ball, play faster and have better team chemistry," junior guard Sam Shelton said.
Eifler is Dominion through and through. He started in the first-ever high school basketball game, came back to teach, is the school's head golf coach, and now, he’s head coach of the basketball program he played for.