Former St. Vincent coach inducted into hall of fame
For 33 years, former St. Vincent College men's basketball coach Bernie Matthews conducted an instructional camp in his name.
And Bernie Matthews knew a thing or two about hoops.
“I worked with Jeff Mallory on a hook shot,” Matthews recalled, referring to a period just prior to his final year on the St. Vincent bench in 2003. “I gave it a term, ‘The Rhythmic Hook Shot.' Mallory grew to be about 6-11, he was long and he wasn't a turnaround jump-shooter. But once he got it going, you couldn't stop his hook shot.”
Mallory currently serves as an assistant coach at St. Vincent.
Matthews, meanwhile, years removed from Mallory's playing days, was among seven current and former coaches to be honored by the Pittsburgh Basketball Club as part of its fourth hall of fame class during a brunch Jan. 26 at the Double Tree Hotel in Moon.
“It was a pleasant surprise When I got the first letter in the mail. I was like, ‘What are we doing here?' ” Matthews said with a laugh. “Oh, we had some great teams at St. Vincent and it was an interesting time.
“I can remember an official saying to me before a game, when the players were warming up, that he was impressed with the level of ball that we played. He said he'd worked some Pitt games — and he was a pretty straight-forward guy. He said, ‘Your team could have beaten Pitt on any given day.' ”
That was an era when St. Vincent, now an NCAA Division III program, was competing at the scholarship NAIA Division II level.
Matthews led St. Vincent to five NAIA tournaments and was the only coach to lead the Bearcats to an NAIA Division I Elite Eight.
His 1998 team featured 7-foot-1 Daniel Santiago, a New Mexico transfer who played parts of four seasons in the NBA.
“I've worked with a lot of great coaches, and he's one of the best,” said Seton Hill coach Tony Morocco, who served as as assistant to Matthews for four seasons at St. Vincent and later added Matthews as an assistant for two seasons at NCAA Division II Seton Hill, when the Griffins were competing in NAIA Division II.
Morocco was instrumental in Santiago's transfer to St. Vincent while on Matthews' coaching staff.
“I spent four wonderful years there with Bernie,” Morocco said.
Matthews, who lives in Unity, captained the 1954-55 Pittsburgh St. Canice High School Class B state championship boys team and later was a four-year starting guard at Duquesne University under legendary coaches Dudey Moore and Red Manning.
The former St. Canice team posted a 32-1 record with Matthews leading the way. As a freshman at Duquesne in 1955-56, Matthews averaged 20.3 points for a Dukes team that was 13-2.
He then got serious about basketball, it seems, winning more than 500 games during a long career at St. Vincent, four times earning NAIA Division II District 20 coach of the year.
Other coaches honored by the PBC included Tim Grgurich (University of Pittsburgh), Matt Furjanic (Robert Morris University, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg), Ron Galbreath (Westminster and Geneva colleges), Harry Jenkins (Fox Chapel High School, La Roche College), Hank Kuzma (Midland High School) and Ed Olkowski (Midland).
“It's important that our basketball present and future have the opportunity to meet our basketball past,” PBC director John Giammarco said. “Reaching the standards set by so many before us will truly say basketball has returned to Western Pennsylvania.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.