Harold Little was away from coaching for three years.

"Felt like three centuries," Little said the other day, before his Sterling High School boys' basketball team played powerful Washington Township in a scrimmage.

Players haven't changed that much in Little's short stay away from the sideline. But he sometimes feels as if he's out of touch with the times.

"I'm old-school," Little said. "Some of this stuff I see from these kids today . . . that's not going to work with me."

Little was a successful coach at Clayton, Highland, and Lindenwold. His teams were known for their disciplined play, their hard-nosed defense, their focus.

Little is an administrator in the Black Horse Pike Regional School District, serving as an assistant principal at Triton.

He missed coaching so much - especially "the squeaks and sounds of the gym," he said - he applied for the Sterling job after former Silver Knights coach Rob Atene stepped down after last season.

Little knew it meant hurrying out of Triton's parking lot nearly every afternoon during the season to make his way down Evesham and Warwick Roads to get to Sterling for practice.

He knew it meant some late nights and weekends away from home.

He also knew it would be worth it.

"I'm a coach," Little said. "I love to coach. I love to put in a play and see it work, put in a trap on defense and see them execute it and get a steal. I still love working with these kids."

His new team is a work in progress. The Silver Knights return a top scorer in crafty senior lefthander Devon Tuten, but most of the squad is young and inexperienced.

Little said he wants his team to play "up-tempo" with an emphasis on pressure defense and transition offense, depending on the opponent.

Little said one positive of his three-year hiatus from coaching was his ability to watch a lot of games.

"I was in the gym almost every night," Little said. "I saw a lot of games, saw a lot of good teams, good players, good coaches.

"But I missed coaching. I missed being back here doing this."