PSNK hoops coach Schneider resigns
Those close to Penn State New Kensington men's basketball will tell you that Doug Schneider gave his all to the program, maybe even moreso at times.
He's been called a heart-of-gold type of coach.
But Schneider's new business venture — in precious metals — requires more time than he anticipated. Much more.
And the burden of trying to give both areas his undivided attention became too much for Schneider, forcing him to resign as head coach after two-plus seasons.
“I had to choose something I love over something I need,” said Schneider, 32, who lives in Apollo. “That's the thing that's so tough about these small programs. It's not your job or livelihood. My plate was too full.”
A former teacher's aide at Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, Schneider decided to open three stores in his new venture.
When one in Dubois was robbed at gunpoint earlier this month, Schneider knew something would have to give.
Schneider said his decision has nothing to do with the fact the team is 0-13 this season and hasn't won a game since Feb. 2, 2012 (81-59 over Penn State Greater Allegheny).
He'd stress in all capital letters if he could: he did not walk out on the team.
“I know the timing looks terrible,” Schneider said. “I gave the (coaching and business) a trial run. When things don't go well in your own business, it's a different kind of stress. It affected everything, from how I recruited to how I managed the team.
“The (robbery) gave me a new perspective on life.”
With the in-season move, the natural question is, what happens now?
Enter wide-eyed, 22-year-old assistant Joe Mandak, who was named interim coach for the final seven games.
Mandak became an assistant three years ago as part of an internship. He played for the Lions for two seasons.
“It's a bittersweet opportunity, for sure,” said Mandak, a Valley graduate. “It's a dream come true, because this is what I want to do. I want to coach at a higher level. I started coaching when I was 19 so I have been around. I hate the way (Schneider) had to go. It was harder for him to go than for me to step in.”
Mandak will fly solo the rest of the way. There are no other assistants. Mandak, who graduated from PSNK in May with a bachelor's degree in corporate communications, works full-time at 84 Lumber in Harrison.
“The thing when we had Doug and I coaching was that while one of us was running practice, the other could go out and recruit,” Mandak said.
“Whenever the season ends, I plan to hit up as many (WPIAL) playoff games as I can.”
Mandak, who had classes with some of the current players, plans to keep his eyes on the road, and believes the team can win.
“I asked the guys if they want to go to battle or fold the season,” Mandak said. “They said, ‘Coach, we want to go to war with you.' ”
Schneider still plans to follow the progress of the Lions.
“I don't feel I failed in what I preached (at PSNK),” he said. “But I did fail in what I tried to create. I will miss being around the young men who gave so much to the program.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the Local Sports Editor of the Valley News Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.