Mt. Pleasant native Katarski hired as Seton Hill women's basketball coach
It's been quite a summer for Mark Katarski.
Six weeks ago he and his wife, the former Hadara Adelson, welcomed their first child, daughter Jaela Hope. His wife is Niagara University's cross country and women's track and field coach.
Now he gets a chance to come home and work at a college near where he grew up.
Monday, the Mt. Pleasant Township native was named Seton Hill's women's basketball coach. He replaces Ferne Labati, who resigned last month.
Katarski, a 1995 Mt. Pleasant graduate, was an assistant women's coach the past two seasons at Niagara. He also was an assistant women's coach at Division III Pitt-Greensburg (2000-2005) and head women's coach at Division III Chatham University (2005-2011).
He compiled a 55-102 record at Chatham, which included the school's first four double-digit winning seasons, and two of his teams were the only squads to reach the conference semifinals in school history.
Prior to Katarski taking the Chatham job, the school won 11 games in 16 seasons.
“I'm very humbled,” Katarski said. “It's a university that has grown so much, so quickly, and an athletic department that has grown so much, so quickly. Beyond the fact that this is home, those are probably the most attractive things.
“To have an opportunity to be associated with a university like that and being in one of the premier NCAA Division II conferences (Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference) in the country is a humbling experience. To have all that within 10 to 15 minutes to where I grew up, it's an honor and privilege in a lot of ways to be the coach at Seton Hill University and be part of the city of Greensburg and Westmoreland County.”
Katarski, 36, will take over a team that finished 19-13 in 2012-13, reached the finals of the now-defunct West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and lost only one starter.
He said he's excited about the challenge of building on the success Labati had and the new conference, which features powers Gannon, California, Indiana, Slippery Rock and Edinboro. Seton Hill officially became a member of the PSAC on Monday.
“Obviously there is an excitement hidden within it. I'm grateful and thankful of the opportunity that everyone at Seton Hill has afforded me,” Katarski said. “There weren't many jobs that I would have come for, and Seton Hill was one of them.”
Katarski said he learned a lot from the different coaches he was with over the years: Carol Gelet at Pitt-Greensburg, Chuck Smith and Tom Esposito at Derry and Niagara coach Kendra Faustin.
“You learn about managing people and managing programs,” he said. “It was rewarding to see them work. You have to be more than a basketball coach at schools.
“Being with those people also broadened my horizons recruiting wise. Western Pa. has always been A strength of mine. I've been recruiting in Toronto, Cleveland, Maryland and New York.”
Katarski played for former Trinity coach Joe Dunn at Mt. Pleasant. Dunn said he knew early on Katarski would make a good coach.
“We had a special coach and player relationship,” Dunn said. “He was one of those players who knew what the coach wanted.
“I like the move for him. This offers him a measure of stability in college coaching. He's been all three levels, and I believe he'll be very successful.”