Former Elderton, Ford City coach Callipare to lead girls program at Apollo-Ridge
Elderton High School's closure in 2012 brought an end to one part of Jim Callipare's coaching career.
Apollo-Ridge presented the opportunity for another chapter.
The Apollo-Ridge School District's board approved Callipare as its girls basketball coach at a meeting May 20. Callipare succeeds Desiree Syster, who went 24-41 in three seasons as coach. He adds Apollo-Ridge to a resume that included Ford City's boys team, which he coached for nine seasons, and Elderton's girls team, which he led for two.
“Jim was high on the list as soon as we got his application,” athletic director Ray Bartha said. “We were looking for someone with experience, someone who had coached for many years, and Jim fit the bill. He's basically a basketball junkie, and that's what I was looking for.”
This past season, he coached Ford City's seventh grade girls team, which went 17-1.
“I think once you get that taste of head coaching experience and get the chance to run an entire program, it's hard to let it go,” said Callipare, 44, a health and physical education teacher at Ford City High School.
Though his life lacked a varsity coach's responsibilities this past winter, Callipare remained intensely connected with basketball in the Alle-Kiski and Armstrong area.
“I probably watched more basketball than I had in my entire life because I could go to any game I wanted to,” Callipare said.
Callipare went 27-18 in his two seasons as Elderton's coach. He believes success is just as attainable at Apollo-Ridge, and he plans to follow a similar strategic philosophy: Slow down teams defensively and operate efficiently in half-court offensive sets.
He likely knows no Section 1-AA opponent better than Ford City. And he knows no Ford City player better than his daughter, Ashton, who is finishing her sophomore year this spring. Callipare has another daughter, Jaylen, who is finishing fifth grade and also plays basketball.
“It'll be interesting,” Callipare said of coaching against his daughters. “I guess it's fair to say they had mixed emotions (about him being hired). They knew I wanted to coach again, that I wanted to be a head coach, and that there were no opportunities at Ford City.”
Bartha, who coached Apollo-Ridge for 34 seasons, trusted his new hire thought long and hard about coaching against kin before he applied.
“He showed a lot of excitement and a lot of enthusiasm at the interview,” Bartha said. “He's a class person, and we're excited to have him.”
At the May 20 school board meeting, Apollo-Ridge also approved Linda Guercio as the new girls varsity volleyball coach.