Ever since he began the process of replacing Dan Dougherty as head coach at Episcopal Academy, Craig Conlin finds himself calling "Coach Doc" fairly often.

The phone calls are loose and easy, and usually go on far longer than expected.

"Half the time, we're just laughing about different memories that we both have and memories that we shared," Conlin said.

The attitude is similar to the one Conlin is taking toward stepping in for Dougherty, a living legend in area high school basketball who retired in April.

As Conlin sees it, there's really not much pressure on him to replace Dougherty.

"How could there be?" Conlin said. "It's almost like replacing Joe Paterno. It just can't be done. So, there's no pressure at all in that sense. We're just trying to start out on a new course."

The lack of pressure does not mean a lack of intensity or focus.

In fact, according to players, the biggest difference between Dougherty, whose two stints at Episcopal lasted from 1977-97 and from 2001-10, and Conlin is the intensity of their new coach.

"They have two different approaches," senior captain D.C. Gaitley said. Conlin "is definitely more in-your-face than Coach Doc. He'll be in your face telling you to play harder and smarter.

"They're definitely two great coaches with two different styles. And so far, the transition is going really well."

Though their demeanors might be different on the court, Conlin credits Dougherty as being a huge influence on his coaching and playing career. Conlin said that while he's eager to put in his own system, he'll never hesitate to seek out the old coach's blessing or advice.

The two met in the early '80s when Conlin was one of the best grade-school basketball players in the area.

"Coach Doc would always talk to me about coming out to play for him at Episcopal," Conlin said.

Instead, Conlin went to La Salle and was a standout on the basketball team. After that, Conlin played a key role in one of La Salle University's most successful stretches in the late 1980s.

At La Salle University, one of Conlin's coaches was Fran Dunphy, who had played for Dougherty at Malvern Prep in the mid-1960s.

After a brief stint playing professional basketball in Europe, Conlin accepted an assistant-coaching position at Germantown Academy, where he stayed 15 years before taking over at Episcopal this season.

For Conlin, his desire to coach at Episcopal began when the school opened its new campus in Newtown Square in 2008.

"When I first went out there, I was blown away," he said. "Just blown away by the gorgeous facilities out there, and right then, that was about two or three years ago, I thought, wow, this could really be a special place to have a great basketball program."

In his first year, Conlin will rely on the leadership of seniors Gaitley, Taylor Wright, and David Mengel, each of whom has three years' varsity experience.

The team will look to build off a season in which they finished 10-14 overall and 2-7 in the Inter-Ac League.

"I'm setting our standards high," Conlin said. "Our goal is to win the league. And we're going to fight and work to do that every day."

Contact Chris Melchiorre