Splendore set to for second stint coaching Mt. Pleasant boys basketball

| Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, 1:06 a.m.

Shortly after the Pittsburgh Pirates won the 1979 World Series, Tony Splendore was preparing for his third season as Mt. Pleasant's boys varsity basketball coach.

Now, more than three decades later, Splendore is back on the bench, ready to begin another stint as head coach.

In addition to being the longtime boys and girls tennis coach at Mt. Pleasant, Splendore was hired to take over the boys basketball program in September.

“I look at it as a challenge at this point in my career,” Splendore said. “In the sport of tennis, I've done just about everything possible you can do in 39 years. I looked at this situation as a challenge for me to get the basketball program from top to bottom on the right track. Also, I knew the boys have gone through a lot of turmoil the past two years and they needed a familiar face. Hopefully, I have a chance here to build the program.”

Splendore will be Mt. Pleasant's third head coach in the past three years. Longtime coach Tom Traynor died from pancreatic cancer in May of 2011, and his successor, Jeremy Yetter, stayed in the position for just one season.

Helping to ease this year's transition will be four returning starters from last year's squad: senior Cody Monroe and juniors Ryan Gumbita, Luke Liprando and Dante Porter.

Gumbita, a 6-foot-4 forward, led the Vikings in scoring, averaging 11.8 points per game.

“He likes to shoot from the wing and the baseline,” Splendore said. “He's a team player, and being the quarterback of the football team, he has good leadership qualities.”

Liprando, a 6-1 forward, averaged 7.6 points per game last season, while Porter is 6-1 and has the versatility to play either guard or forward.

Monroe (6-0) will most likely suit up at guard.

Splendore also said juniors Tyler Mellors, Mitch Matlas and Marcus Malara will see significant playing time.

Mellors is 5-8 and will run the offense at point guard, while Malara will try to utilize his 6-3 frame inside. Matlas, like Porter, can play both guard and forward.

“I won't say that I have a starting five,” Splendore said. “I've tried to impress with these boys that we have a starting seven. Most of these boys were football players. What I've found is they have made the transition from football to basketball a lot easier than most kids. They've adapted very well. They have a strong work ethic, and they work very hard at practice.”

Splendore also said that senior Paul Unavarski (6-0) could see playing time inside.

The Vikings will compete in Section 3-AAA, along with Uniontown, Laurel Highlands, Derry, Yough, Greensburg Salem and Southmoreland.

Uniontown has been tabbed the preseason favorite to win the section, and Splendore thinks there's a lot of balance among the remaining teams.

“You can't take anyone lightly in the section,” Splendore said.

Mt. Pleasant opens its season Friday against Norwin in the Penn-Trafford Tip-Off Tournament.

Dave Stofcheck is a freelance writer.

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