Penn State New Kensington hires new basketball coach
Penn State New Kensington is putting the future of its men's basketball program in the hands of one of its former players.
The school announced Thursday that it has hired Art McCray as its new head coach.
McCray, 36, a supervisor and head basketball coach at Summit Academy for the past three seasons, replaces Joe Mandak, 22, who served as interim coach for the final five games of this season.
Mandak filled in for Doug Schneider, who resigned in January for reasons related to a business venture.
McCray is used to high turnover since players usually leave Summit, a school for court-adjudicated boys, after one year. Players often leave PSNK's team early, too, many times to transfer to the main campus.
It's common for players to leave after a semester.
“Given the circumstances of not having returning players, losing starters due to positive completion of the program and students coming from different backgrounds and areas, it (winning section titles) was a great accomplishment for those young men, and it was great to be a part of it,” McCray said of Summit Academy.
“Now my staff and I come into a situation with student-athletes who have played together and have a decent basketball IQ. This gives us confidence that we can be successful.”
McCray played at PSNK in 1996 and '97 under coaches Paul Holzshu and Lance Maha. He is a Chartiers Valley graduate and played for coach Tim McConnell.
“Those three (coaches) have taught me a lot and for that I thank them,” McCray said. “The way they attack their offseason workouts, conditioning programs and how they prepare for games is what make them successful. I plan on using the same approach here.”
Known for his defense, McCray led the team in rebounds and blocks during a two-year stretch that saw the Lions win a pair of conference titles.
The 6-foot-6 forward went on to finish his playing career at Lock Haven.
McCray plans to stress academics.
“They will dive on the floor for books before they will be given a chance to dive for a loose ball,” he said.
This season, PSNK finished 1-17, 1-16 in the PSUAC.
While at Summit Academy, McCray, who lives in Apollo, was 39-31, including a 23-11 section mark with back-to-back section titles. Two years ago, he guided the Knights to the second round of the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs.
PSNK hasn't had a winning season since 2008-09, when the Lions went 22-6 and finished No. 6 in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association rankings.
All five starters from this year's team are expected to return, including freshman guard Rashon Boone, who played for McCray last season at Summit.
PSNK also has filled another coaching vacancy. Head golf coach Bill Woodard has stepped down after 12 years but will stay on as an assistant.
He will be replaced by Tom Crombie, the head golf professional at Stoney Creek Golf Center.
The school is in the process of hiring a men's soccer coach.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.