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Greensburg Central Catholic coach denies official's accusation

| Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, 10:06 p.m.

Greensburg Central Catholic boys basketball coach Greg Bisignani conceded that his critical words were unsportsmanlike, but disputed witness testimony that he initiated physical contact with a referee moments after an overtime loss.

The WPIAL Board of Control held a hearing Monday at the league's office in Green Tree to review Bisignani's interaction with Mike Tucci, one of three referees who officiated the Jan. 18 loss to McKeesport in the Coaches vs. Cancer Backyard Brawlz event at Seton Hill University. Tucci, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic athletic director Mike Burrell and Gateway principal William Short all testified that Bisignani bumped Tucci in an intimidating way near the scorer's table.

Burrell and Short were spectators in the stands.

According to Tucci, during the encounter, Bisignani shouted at him: “You'll never work another GCC game again” and later near the locker room, “you need to let the kids determine the game.”

Bisignani, an orthopedic surgeon, has coached GCC for five seasons. His Centurions, ranked No. 2 in Class AA, are 14-2. He admitted Monday to vocal criticism of Tucci, but denied bumping him.

“There was no contact,” Bisignani said. “Absolutely no contact.”

The board will announce its finding Tuesday morning, executive director Tim O'Malley said. Yet, should the WPIAL find Bisignani's action unacceptable, the league can't directly punish him. For that, the WPIAL must rely on school administrators.

“In situations like this, we don't have any jurisdiction over personnel of member schools,” O'Malley said.

Along with Bisignani, attorney Ken Burkley and athletic director Dan Mahoney represented GCC at the hearing.

The WPIAL reviewed video that captured the postgame scene. The video showed Bisignani walking out of frame toward Tucci. A switch in camera angle showed the two standing very close.

GCC scorekeeper Robert Charley, who testified for Bisignani, said he saw no contact. Event organizer Allan Deep, who also viewed the interaction from the scorer's table, speculated that any contact was accidental.

Tucci disagreed. An official for more than 30 years, Tucci said the interaction has “affected me horribly.”

“I have a very uncomfortable feeling as soon as I step on the floor (now),” he said.

A letter from Burrell sparked the WPIAL's interest. Bisignani argued Monday that Burrell's actions were influenced by Bill Swan, a former GCC assistant with whom Bisignani has a contentious relationship. Burrell and Swan watched the game together. Swan, who was not a witness Monday, said he had no influence.

“Mike Burrell is his own man and he's a respected athletic director,” said Swan, who added that his family has “nothing but good memories of Greensburg Central Catholic.”

John Jarocki, another referee for that game who had been a patient of Bisignani's, testified that he was not in position to view the on-court interaction nor hear specific comments from Bisignani. But Jarocki said Tucci told him about the encounter while heading to the referees' locker room.

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