In an unusual turn of events, Deer Lakes School Board promoted boys basketball assistant Jon McKay to head coach after a show of support from about 10 players and their parents Monday night.
District administrators, including athletic director Charles Bellisario, recommended Doug Clark for the position.
Instead, board member Clara Salvi made a motion to hire McKay, 33, of Butler, after players and parents spoke in his favor, and he was hired by a 5-0 vote. One board member abstained, and three were absent.
“I've been a teacher for 11 years, and I've had some special moments, but that's definitely No. 1,” said McKay, who teaches at Butler High School. “That tells me what kind of players I have. It was like something out of a movie. It's something I'll never forget.”
Last season, McKay served as assistant to Joe Lewandowski, who resigned in mid-September to care for his ill mother. Along with Lewandowski, McKay worked with the players during the offseason and applied for the position. McKay said he knew another candidate had been recommended and went to the meeting to wish the players luck.
Board president Lisa Merlo said she had intended to support the recommendation of Clark, but she didn't want to leave the team without a head coach so close to the start of the season. Official practices start Nov. 16.
“That's the worst thing I could do to you,” Merlo said to the players. “I don't know who your best coach is, but I couldn't delay your season.”
Deer Lakes was 4-18 overall and 2-12 in Section 1-AAA last year but was realigned this offseason into Class AA.
“I've never been more excited for an upcoming season as I am with Coach McKay,” senior Tim Cresta said. “He's a great coach. Last year's record didn't reflect how good of a coach he is.”
Paul Kogut and Jodi Weigand are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Kogut can be reached at email@example.com or 724-226-2696. Weigand can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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