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WM girls hoops coach resigns

| Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, 1:01 a.m.

Dan Thayer, uncomfortable in his latest gig, has resigned as girls basketball coach at West Mifflin — his alma mater — just months after being named to the post.

He was replaced by Scott Stephenson, the school's athletic director and a former men's basketball coach at CCAC-South.

Thayer, citing philosophical differences with the West Mifflin adminstration for his departure, was hired in May to succeed Rob Yeschenko after coaching the girls team at Brentwood for two seasons. Yeschenko resigned at West Mifflin following a two-year record of 20-23, which included a pair of WPIAL playoffs victories.

Stephenson said Thayer sent a letter of resignation to West Mifflin on Oct. 4.

“I had a certain level of expections. I wanted those expectations to be met,” Thayer said. “The school and I didn't seem to have the same philosophy on that.”

It is one of two recent coaching changes at West Mifflin.

Jeff Smith was elevated to baseball coach after serving as the school's junior varsity coach under Jeff Kuzma, whose contract was not renewed. Kuzma had coached the Titans since 2001, leading them to two WPIAL section championships and four WPIAL playoffs appearances.

Thayer began to have doubts about the West Mifflin job after watching the team play in a summer league in McKeesport.

He alluded mainly to instances of court conduct, calling them “embarrassing,” though he did not name any players.

“I've done this for 18 years, and there were just so many flagrant fouls,” Thayer said. “I was saying, ‘We can't have that.' Every time you turned around, there were more obstacles.”

Stephenson, who has no experience as a high school girls coach, spent two seasons as men's coach at CCAC-South, compiling a record of 15-24 from 2004-06 before being named AD at West Mifflin, where he previously served as as a boys middle school coach. He also has been a boys assistant coach at Steel Valley.

He said Thayer's abrupt departure surprised him.

“We all were sort of stunned by it,”

The PIAA's 2013 girls basketball season begins with the official start of practices Monday.

Stephenson said none of the latest applicants for the position left vacant by Thayer possessed head coaching experience, which prompted school officials to approach Stephenson about the job.

“With it being so late in the year, and with me having had some head coaching experience, they asked if I'd be interested,” Stephenson said. “I figured I'd give it a try.”

Stephenson inherits four returning starters from a 10-13 team in 2012-13 that was eliminated by Blackhawk in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs. Among them, point guard Ciara Patterson was named The Daily News Player of the Year by Trib Total Media.

West Mifflin has enjoyed just one winning record since posting four consecutive 20-win seasons, from 2004-08.

Thayer, a 1988 West Mifflin graduate, said he has no hard feelings.

“I don't blame them for any of this,” he said. “If we weren't going to do it a certain way, we weren't going to do it at all. I'm OK with not coaching for now. You want to do things the way you've been successful doing it.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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