Coaching is lifelong passion for A-K Valley hall of famer Thompson
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As a child of 10, Dave Thompson realized coaching was in his blood.
Then a Little Leaguer for the Tarentum-Brackenridge organization, Thompson recognized his calling.
“As I played sports, I always knew I wanted to coach, even in 1957,” he said. “I wanted to take charge and organize. I always had the urge to coach.”
For his 268 basketball coaching victories and nine WPIAL playoff appearances at Springdale and Deer Lakes high schools, Thompson will be one of eight inductees at the 44th Alle-Kiski Valley Sports Hall of Fame banquet Saturday at the Clarion Hotel, New Kensington.
He also was an assistant coach in baseball and football at those schools.
Growing up on a Fawn Township farm, Thompson relished the times his father brought him into Tarentum where he could play sports at the YMCA and on the sandlot fields.
He played sports year round and graduated from former Tarentum High School in 1965. A highlight of his teenaged career was a stint with the Little Pirates, an elite baseball team coached by late A-K Valley hall of famer Jack Heimbuecher.
Besides Heimbuecher, Thompson was also influenced by Point Park coach Frankie Gustine while playing for the Pioneers.
Thompson began his 38-year teaching career in 1969 in the same building that housed West View High School, now part of the North Hills School District.
His big coaching break came later that year as he was driving through Springdale, stopping at the Veterans Association, where Heimbuecher was an evening bartender.
“Jack asked what I was doing,” Thompson said. “I said I was at North Hills and he said, ‘No, you're not, you're coming to Springdale to teach and coach.' ”
Several weeks later, Thompson was hired by the Allegheny Valley School District and soon entered the junior high coaching ranks in several sports.
He took over as head basketball coach with the Dynamos after Chuck DeVenzio left in 1978.
Thompson's first varsity basketball team made the WPIAL playoffs in 1979.
But by 1983, when a number of school districts furloughed teachers due to declining enrollment and other factors, Thompson headed to Deer Lakes, where there was a teaching opening and a varsity basketball vacancy.
“Our first year was tough, “Thompson said. “We were in a section with North Allegheny and all the larger schools and finished something like 5-14.”
A break came the following year when Class AAAA was established, and Deer Lakes was moved to Class AAA and competed well against similar-sized schools.
But one of his biggest thrills as a coach came in a nonsection game in 1983-84.
Springdale was long-established as a basketball power while upstart Deer Lakes was hosting the Dynamos looking for traction under Thompson. “The gym was packed, they closed the doors in the third quarter of the (junior varsity) game,” Thompson said. “I told my team if it was close in the third quarter, we'd win. And we did it, 36-34.”
Thompson, oddly enough, is back at Springdale. He currently assists his son, Seth, who is the Dynamos head coach.
George Guido is a freelance writer.
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