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GCC boys basketball facing rebuild under new coach

Bill Beckner Jr.
| Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Greensburg Central Catholic boys head coach Jim Nesser during practice on Tuesday Nov. 21, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Central Catholic boys head coach Jim Nesser during practice on Tuesday Nov. 21, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Greensburg Central Catholic's Jeff Helm passes the ball during a drill during practice on Tuesday Nov. 21, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Central Catholic's Jeff Helm passes the ball during a drill during practice on Tuesday Nov. 21, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Greensburg Central Catholic's Max Pisula during practice on Tuesday Nov. 21, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Central Catholic's Max Pisula during practice on Tuesday Nov. 21, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Greensburg Central Catholic runs a fast break drill during practice on Tuesday Nov. 21, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Central Catholic runs a fast break drill during practice on Tuesday Nov. 21, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Greensburg Central Catholic's  Joel Lonigro during practice on Tuesday Nov. 21, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Central Catholic's Joel Lonigro during practice on Tuesday Nov. 21, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.

When Jim Nesser began coaching at Elizabeth Forward in the early 2000s, he endured a 4-20 season. Things looked bleak as the team moved ahead.

But then came a breakthrough a few years later: a 22-4 mark and the program's first section title.

Nesser still calls the turnaround one of his most memorable achievements.

He will have a chance to make more memories at Greensburg Central Catholic, which also has a boys program that faces an uphill climb.

With little experience back from a 25-2 team that reached the WPIAL Class 2A semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals, Nesser is still warming up to his latest coaching venture, learning names and figuring out what he has to work with.

He replaced Greg Bisignani, who went 187-32 and won eight section titles in eight seasons before resigning after last season.

Nesser graduated from GCC in 1978.

“We're really inexperienced with no starters back,” said Nesser, who is known for his spirited personality on the sidelines and always wearing black when he coaches. “We're very green, so it's going to take some time. We'll be adjusting on the fly.”

The coach does know he will have a bevy of guards, including junior Joel LoNigro.

Some football players could provide toughness under the rim. They include junior Max Pisula, the quarterback, and kicker Ethan Slike.

Also back is 6-foot-3 junior forward Ryan Bisignani.

Junior Geoffrey Helm is expected to be a key player. He is a transfer from Blairsville.

Sophomore guard Tommy Erdely also could contribute.

“They have been so successful here, I just want to keep things going in the right direction,” Nesser said. “We have to find our true chemistry. I can tell you we're going to play defense and rebound, and we're going to play hard. I just don't know what we really have until the lights come on and we start playing.”

Nesser, a teacher at Yough, was an assistant last season at Seton Hill. He also has coached at Yough, Jeannette, Hempfield and Penn State Greater Allegheny. He went 72-14 in three years at Jeannette, with WPIAL and PIAA Class AA titles in 2008.

He went 58-32 in four years at Hempfield.

He had open-heart surgery five years ago and debated getting back to coaching, but could not pass up a chance to coach at his alma mater.

Nesser's staff will include Tyler Handlan, one of his former players at Hempfield, and Greg Bisignani will stay on as an assistant.

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

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