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Prolific Belle Vernon basketball coach to be honored

| Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 2:24 p.m.
Don Asmonga, the first basketball and baseball coach in the history of Belle Vernon Area, will be honored at a BVA basketball game on Jan. 7. He guided the Leps to their only WPIAL basketball title in 1978.
Courtesy photo
Don Asmonga, the first basketball and baseball coach in the history of Belle Vernon Area, will be honored at a BVA basketball game on Jan. 7. He guided the Leps to their only WPIAL basketball title in 1978.

In the long history of Belle Vernon Area High School, nobody has coached basketball at the school longer than Don Asmonga.

Nor has anyone achieved as much success in doing so.

On Jan. 7, a special tribute will be paid to Asmonga, BVA's first-ever head boys' basketball coach.

Asmonga's teams recorded 297 wins spanning his 23-year coaching career that began in 1965 when he was chosen as the Leps' first basketball coach as well as the school's baseball coach.

He guided BVA to the school's first and only WPIAL basketball crown in 1978.

Besides the WPIAL AAA basketball championship, his 1974, 1976 and 1981 teams advanced to the playoffs. His 1967 BVA baseball team won a WPIAL section title.

Remaining members of the original BVA Football-Basketball Boosters Club of the 1960s and 1970s are coming together to honor Asmonga at special festivities preceding the Leps' Section 4 AAA home game against Thomas Jefferson.

Former players have been invited to honor their coach.

“While BVA has a football hall of fame, there's no equivalent basketball or all-sports hall of fame,” said Joe Grata, a member of the former boosters and chairman of the event. “This is a one-shot revival of those from the original board of directors still around in order to fill the void and to give recognition that's long overdue.”

Now 85, Asmonga spent most of his life in sports. He was an all-around athlete at Homestead High School, playing under legendary coach “Chick” Davies.

He and his wife, Bernice, live in the Fellsburg neighborhood of Rostraver.

Asmonga was inducted into the Western Pennsylvania Hall of Fame in 1988 and into the Mid-Mon Valley All-Sports Hall of Fame in 2000. He was recipient of the Pittsburgh Dapper Dan Award in 1979 for excelling as a scholastic basketball coach.

“Former Asmonga players, friends, colleagues and peers have told us they're happy to see the school where he coached for so many years pay due tribute,” said Grata. “After Jan. 7, the old Boosters Club goes back to being disbanded, replaced long ago by parents groups.”

The other three original BVA Boosters are James Stump Sr., who is also the event co-chairman, Gerald Jackson Sr. and Robert Kopanic.

Former BVA School Superintendent Steve Russell is serving as event adviser and providing historical and biographical items from his sports history collection.

Randy Giannini and Tom Trilli, both of whom played for Asmonga, are alumni coordinators. BVA senior Rob Harhai is serving as school event coordinator.

State Rep. Ted Harhai will make a presentation.

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