Frazier legend DiVirgilio dies at 93
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Henry DiVirgilio, a coaching legend from the small community of Perryopolis, is gone.
However, the school's all-time winningest basketball coach will always be remembered for bringing gold back to the school and community.
DiVirgilio, 93, died Tuesday in Delmont.
DiVirgilio also coached baseball and football, but it was basketball where he left his mark at the school.
He retired with 457 wins in a 30-year career that included coaching the Commodores to the WPIAL Class B title in 1969 — the only WPIAL basketball title in the school's history.
He retired from the district in 1983 and about 20 years later the high school's gymnasium was named in his honor.
Although DiVirgilio coached numerous section champions at Frazier, it was the history-making team in 1969 that will be most remembered.
DiVirgilio's Commodores knocked off Center, 69-56, in the title game with a lineup that included the late Jerry Boyle, Wes and Charlie Ramsey, Rod King and Jim Davis.
“It's a shocker you're telling me,” said Charlie Ramsey. “I was just thinking about going to see him. The last time I saw him was a couple years ago in Perryopolis and we just talked about old times.”
Wes Ramsey, who is vacationing in Niagara Falls, said the 1969 team would never have made history if not for DiVirgilio.
“For one, he had the intestinal fortitude to use as many as four black kids at a time and that didn't go over too well back then. It just wasn't popular in the town,” Wes Ramsey said. “Plus, he instituted the man-to-man defense and we would have never gotten out of the section if we played zone defense back then. We didn't start anybody over six feet, and he took the same defense that Eddie McCluskey used at Farrell and brought it to Frazier.
“Finally, his training regimen really had us in shape. He made us do things in practice that, in the games, when other teams were dragging in the fourth quarter we were still going at it. He was one heck of a coach. He was an innovator.”
Charlie Ramsey recalled DiVirgilio as being an organized disciplinarian as a coach.
“He was well organized and we had a good bunch of guys who followed his script,” Ramsey said. “He was a good man, a good coach.
“We won the Class B title, which was the second largest classification back then,” Charlie Ramsey said. “We were interchangeable players and played a lot of different positions. I think that's what made us so good together. Those were good times. Those were times I would love to relive. It was a really big deal in the community. I thank Coach DiVirgilio for that.”
Larry Mikesell, who coached and worked under DiVirgilio, said he was a man of great integrity, yet humble.
“Whether you played for him, coached for him or worked under him — he was my principal at Frazier — he treated everybody the same,” Mikesell said. “He was very personable. He was just a brilliant man. Really, he was just hard to describe other than special.”
A complete obituary for DiVirgilio can be found on Page 4A.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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