New Hempfield boys basketball coach brings fresh ideas to successful program
When Hempfield High School hired Lycoming College assistant Mark Marino as its new boys basketball coach, school officials simply were seeking a fresh approach.
It's not that former coach Jim Nesser was unsuccessful in leading the Spartans — his teams had won or shared seven WPIAL section championships at three high schools, including three of the past four at Class AAAA Hempfield — it's just that Hempfield was looking for a change.
“Mark has some new ideas that he plans to implement that we like,” Hempfield athletics director Greg Meisner said. “As far as the notion of fresh ideas goes, I'm not sure how to say it because we've had a successful program. But he has some different things that were appealing to us as far as camps and getting involved with youth programs go.
“We had an offseason program in place, but Mark has proposed a good package for the off-season and in-season, something that we think will work well.”
Marino, 34, who was an assistant at NCAA Division III Lycoming for five years, replaces the fiery Nesser, whose contract was not renewed despite a four-year record of 58-32. Nesser, a teacher at Yough, also led Class AA Jeannette to a PIAA championship in 2008.
Marino, a native of Curwensville in Clearfield County, was a high school history teacher at Turbotville Warrior Run in Northumberland County while coaching at Lycoming, where helped the Warriors to a Division III tournament bid in 2010.
He previously had coached District 4 Warrior Run and was an assistant at Francis Scott Key in Union Bridge, Md.
With Marino on staff at Lycoming, the Warriors won three Commonwealth Conference championships in five seasons.
“College coaching is a business,” Marino said. “There's no guarantee. In high school, you can have more of a life. At the collegiate level, I just knew that I was a high school guy. That's my best fit.”
When the Hempfield job became available, Marino said he “just applied for it. I sat down and said this was something I wanted to consider. I was looking. There were other opportunities that presented themselves, at the college and high school levels.
“I wanted a larger school. I wanted to have a school that was big enough where there were enough kids who wanted to practice and wanted to play and get better. I've been impressed since the day I got here. The people have been nothing but terrific.”
Hempfield loses five of its 16 players from the 2012-13 team that posted a 17-6 record and won the Section 1-AAAA championship but was eliminated by Fox Chapel in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.
“He's been successful at the college level, and his ties to Western Pennsylvania recruiting can easily be transcended to here,” Meisner said of Marino. “He's got great enthusiasm, and we're excited to have him.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.