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Hempfield's Epps resigns after 5 seasons as girls basketball coach

| Thursday, April 20, 2017, 6:54 p.m.
Ken Reabe Jr. | For The Tribune-Review
Hempfield head coach Aaron Epps stares at an official following a foul call in the second quarter against North Allegheny during the first round of the PIAA Class 6A playoffs on Friday, March 10, 2017, at Plum High School.
Barry Reeger | For The Tribune-Review
Hempfield head coach Aaron Epps talks with his team during a timeout against Penn Hills in their game at Hempfield High School's Spartan Field house on Friday Feb. 3, 2017. Hempfield lost to Penn Hills 51-43.
Ken Reabe Jr. | For The Tribune-Review
Hempfield head coach Aaron Epps talks to his team between periods in the first half against North Allegheny during the first round of the PIAA Class 6A playoffs on Friday, March 10, 2017, at Plum High School.

Driving more than two hours round-trip from the North Hills to Hempfield just about every day in the winter finally took its toll on Aaron Epps.

So much, in fact, that it forced the Hempfield girls basketball coach to make a tough decision, but one that could push his coaching career to the next level.

Epps is stepping down after five seasons.

He turned in his letter of resignation Thursday and said he has an option to coach women's basketball at the college level. He said he had planned to leave Hempfield even if the other opportunity does not come to fruition.

“I was leaving no matter what,” said Epps, 37. “This has nothing to do with the kids. The administration was tremendous with me, parents were great and (athletic director) Greg Meisner was phenomenal. I got along with everyone and they left me alone. It's tough to leave such a great place.”

The decision also is family-related: Epps wants to spend more time with his 9-year-old son, Jordan.

“I have gone back and forth with the college thing,” Epps said. “Who knows where it will lead. I'm not sure where my coaching career will end up. I just want to be there for my son. And I can save a lot of money on gas.”

Current and former players learned of Epps' resignation Thursday.

“I think coach Epps really built the success of our program over the past few years,” senior guard Michelle Burns said. “His knowledge of not only the game but each one of his players is truly amazing. He's helped me become the player I am today, and I wouldn't have wanted any other coach for my high school career.”

Epps was 81-43 with one undefeated section title and five playoff trips, two that included the PIAA playoffs. In his second season, Hempfield went 19-10 and reached the WPIAL Class 4A title game where it lost to fellow county rival Penn-Trafford.

Aside from players and friends at Hempfield, Epps said he will miss the relationships he forged with coaches.

“Guys like (Penn-Trafford's John) Giannikas and (Norwin's Brian) Brozeski; we had some battles and became great friends,” Epps said. “I will never forget when Penn-Trafford and us broke the mold for the county and made the championship. Westmoreland County became a second home to me. I will miss the camaraderie.”

Giannikas also recognizes the importance of their finals meeting.

“There have been some great coaches at Hempfield, and Aaron falls into that category,” Giannikas said. “Hempfield has always been good, and he took them to the next level. We have had some tremendous games against each other, with obviously the best one at the Palumbo Center. Looking back, that game really helped put our section on the map.”

Epps coached one season with the Kiski Area girls before coming to Hempfield in 2012. He was an assistant at Butler for eight years when his mother, Dorothea, was the head coach there.

“It was always about the kids, not me,” Epps said. “Those Hempfield girls ran through walls for me. I was blessed to have talent but we always competed. I had fighters, and they loved the competition.

“It was a great five-year run.”

Epps is known for high energy and being animated on the sidelines.

“One thing for sure,” Giannikas said. “Nobody had better sideline dance moves than Epps — not even close. It was great to watch on film.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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