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Ex-Kiski Area star takes over Cavaliers' boys basketball program

| Tuesday, April 16, 2013, 12:18 a.m.

The keystone of one of Kiski Area's best boys basketball teams has ascended to the top of the program's coaching staff.

Joe Tutchstone, 29, of Vandergrift will lead Kiski Area after serving as an assistant the past six seasons. A 2002 Kiski Area graduate, he starred in track and basketball for the Cavaliers. He succeeds Harry Rideout, who stepped down in March after four seasons.

“It's very special to me,” Tutchstone said after the district's school board approved him as head coach Monday night. “It's something that I've put myself in the position to become. ... I've been giving back. But I'm in charge now.”

As a senior, Tutchstone earned Valley News Dispatch Player of the Year honors in basketball after he averaged 19 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists for a team that reached the WPIAL Class AAAA semifinals.

Tutchstone continued his basketball career at Charleston and later transferred to Pitt-Johnstown. Coaching always was part of the post-college plan for Tutchstone, who works as a sixth-grade teacher at Vandergrift Elementary.

“My coach at Pitt-Johnstown (Bob Rukavina) used to call me a coach on the floor,” Tutchstone said. “I was not only a player, I was a student of the game.”

Tutchstone inherits a team that went 16-6 and shared the Section 1-AAAA title but lost to Gateway in the first round of the WPIAL tournament. Only three players on the roster were seniors.

The new coach approves of his players' physical abilities. One of his top priorities is to mold the team mentality so that it more closely resembles the 2002 squad's attitude.

“No matter where we went or what we did, we just wanted to play ball back in the day, and we were all very competitive,” Tutchstone said. “So we're trying to get that competitive edge back in players' minds. We want them to believe they can compete with all the other teams in the WPIAL. They've seen it done, and they've got to know we can put in the work to get it done.”

A former teammate and current cohort expects the new coach will prove tireless.

“He's a basketball junkie, and he's going to put in the time and effort,” said Ford City coach Greg Hutcherson, a 2003 Kiski Area graduate who described Tutchstone as his best friend. “It's actually a dream of ours to coach together one day. But it's nice that he has his program, and I have my program. We'll definitely work out our teams together during the offseason.”

Tutchstone still is considering who to add to his coaching staff. He'll likely want assistants that share his hands-on, high-energy approach.

“I still can get out there and show (players) how I want things done,” Tutchstone said. “My main thing is hard work. I know if you are willing to dedicate yourself to it 110 percent, all of the other things will take care of themselves.”

He'll have to wait before he breaks out some moves at practice. Tutchstone said he'll have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Wednesday to repair damage done by years of sports-fueled wear and tear.

“It's my first time in 29 years I'll have to use crutches,” he said.

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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