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Belle Vernon Area seeking new boys' basketball coach

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 12:56 a.m.

When Eric James applied to be the girls' basketball coach at Belle Vernon Area in the spring of 2011, the board offered him a surprise alternative — coaching the boys' program.

Two years later, James may not have any program to coach.

The school board Monday voted to open the boys' coaching position.

The Leopards are coming off a 3-18 season, including 1-11 in the conference. BVA posted a combined 6-37 record in two seasons under James, including 2-22 in the conference.

When James was hired, the Leopards were fresh off a dismal one-win season.

Athletic Director Jesse Cramer said he recommended, along with the board's athletic committee, that the directors consider reopening the position.

“I think the board is looking to see what options they have,” Cramer said. “They want to explore and see what's out there.

“I just think the board is looking at the direction of the whole program. They want to see if there are any other candidates out there.”

Cramer said at the end of each season, he meets with each coach to discuss what went on and what expectations there are for the next season.

Cramer said he has had a very good relationship with James. Cramer said James “would be more than welcome to reapply.”

Asked about the decision to reopen the position, Superintendent Dr. John Wilkinson said, “We have expectations for all coaches. It was my recommendation that coach James did not meet those expectations.”

Asked about those expectations, Wilkinson said win-loss record was not among them, but “cultivating” students playing in feeder programs in elementary and middle school levels was among those expectations.

James starred in basketball at Ringgold in the early 1970s and later served as an assistant in both boys' and girls' basketball at his alma mater.

James, who lives in Carroll Township, was the lone sophomore on Ringgold's 1973 PIAA championship team that also featured Ulice Payne and Joe Montana.

He went on to play college ball at Pitt-Bradford and Midwestern State University before earning bachelor of science and master's degrees from Geneva College.

He was a girls' assistant at Ringgold from 2001-05 before switching to the boys' team as an aide from 2006-09.

He then served as an assistant for the Lady Rams the next two seasons.

James was a finalist for the girls' job two years ago, but Lisa Fairman was hired.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or

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