Robert "Moe" Blatt was used to winning games and going to the PIAA playoffs as an assistant coach for nine years in Kathy McCartney's highly successful basketball program at Villa Maria Academy.

So why would Blatt move to West Chester East to become head coach of a program that had fallen on some very hard times?

The Vikings did not win a game last season, and have won only four games in the last three seasons.

"I saw it as an intriguing challenge," Blatt said. "If my kids had gone to public school, they would have gone to East. Some parents [of East students] asked me if I would consider taking the job after longtime coach Dan Rudloff stepped down.

"When no one else stepped forward, I decided to give it a shot," Blatt said. "I want to show that I can coach as well as I think I can coach."

Blatt has never had a head-coaching position at the high school level, but has coached CYO, AAU, and other club teams. He isn't making predictions about how things will turn out in his first season, but he vows that West Chester East will win some games.

If enthusiasm has anything to do with winning games, Blatt is sure to succeed. Blatt told his players he wanted them to be excited, too.

"We'll work together to get there," he said.

Senior Kim Petrick is one of the players who experienced the down years but stuck in there. She was excited to hear Blatt's presentation when he was introduced to the team.

"We got pulled out of class, and that was great," Petrick said with a chuckle. "We now have a new coach and a new outlook. There's definitely a new attitude on the team.

"I play for fun, and I felt that if I stuck with it, things eventually would get better. The past is the past. We have to look ahead."

Blatt greeted more than 20 girls for his first workouts.

"I went to a meeting of Ches-Mont League coaches, and many of them reported getting 17, 19 kids out," Blatt said. "I felt good about our numbers.

"They're young and some of them may be forced to play at a higher level, but I don't want them to become discouraged. They're young, and that's good. I told them if you got a uniform, then you are going to play. I'm hoping to mold them into a basketball group."

The Vikings will have their work cut out. East plays in the Ches-Mont's National Division with the likes of Downingtown East, Downingtown West, and Coatesville.

The Vikings will open the season Friday in a two-day tournament at Oxford. They then will have two nonleague games before opening league play against Downingtown East on Dec. 21.

"I'd like to see us win at least three games in December," Blatt said. "We have to concentrate on keeping the enthusiasm high. I've told them there will be times they may play well and still lose."

Blatt will look to returning player Karissa Smith as a key leader. The 5-foot-7 junior point guard knows what it's like to win. She and a few of her basketball teammates were members of East's successful girls' soccer team this fall.

"She's a physical kid," Blatt said. "I'm hoping her style of play gets to be contagious. Winning begets winning."

In addition to Smith, the rookie coach will count heavily on Petrick and sophomore Caitlin Pavlo. Petrick is 5-8, and Pavlo is 5-7.

"We lack height. It looks like we have five guards," Blatt said.

The middle schools might be a good source for height in the future.

"I understand there are 27 players signed up at Fugett," he said, referring to the primary feeder school for East.

Contact staff writer Don Beideman at 267-815-0733 or dbeideman@phillynews.com.