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Marshall hired to coach Clairton girls basketball team

| Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, 11:48 p.m.

There's no nonsense associated with Jonathan Marshall, one of Clairton High School's favorite sons. If the Clairton girls basketball team hasn't heard, it's about to find out.

Marshall, the tenacious, little big man who scored a school-record 56 points in a 1970 boys basketball game against Carrick, has returned to his alma mater, hoping to make another impact as coach of the struggling girls team.

“I'm tough. I always was,” said Marshall, who never has been a head coach in the United States but served as a women's club team coach while playing professionally in Sweden.

“I don't know how to do anything but 100 percent. You give me 100 percent, you won't have to worry about anything. I don't want to see 50 percent or 85 percent. Play hard or you don't play. That's how I played.”

And that's no nonsense.

“I want kids who want to work,” Marshall said. “Once they learn how to have success, they'll want to keep doing it. There's no greater motivator than winning.”

The former Pittsburgh-area playground legend, who played two seasons each at Robert Morris — then a junior college — and Penn State and four years as a professional in Europe, was hired this week by Clairton to succeed former girls coach Charles Shealey, who was not retained after his teams were a combined 9-32 in two seasons.

With just two seniors on a 14-player roster, the Bears were 2-18 in 2013-14, finishing last in the WPIAL Section 4-A standings with a 1-9 mark. They were outscored by an average of 54-27.

“I have faith that he can get the program going at a respectable rate in the WPIAL,” first-year Clairton athletic director Mike Linnert said of Marshall, who averaged 28 points and 20 rebounds as a high school senior with the Bears boys team in 1969-70. “We're excited. He's excited. He came in with a game plan, he has a timeline, and he's ready to go.”

At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Marshall played mainly at center or power forward throughout his career.

“He played like he was 6-9,” said McKeesport boys coach Corey Gadson, who was a freshman on Clairton's team when Marshall was a senior. “We were both raised in Clairton. We became good friends, and we played a lot of ball together through the years.”

Marshall, whose son is 7-foot Zeke Marshall, the former McKeesport and University of Akron star now with the NBA Developmental League Maine Red Claws, spent a brief time as a boys volunteer assistant to Gadson at East Allegheny.

“Even now, he's a gym rat,” said Gadson, who also is a former Clairton boys coach. “His knowledge of working with big men is unmatched.”

Gadson went on to a successful college playing career, spending two seasons at then-NAIA Glenville State before transferring to St. Francis (Pa.).

Marshall intends to take a no-nonsense approach to coaching the Clairton girls team, preaching a theme based on fundamentals.

“The best way to teach fundamentals are in high schools,” he said. “Whether you go to college or the pros, the things you learn in high school goes a long way. You can make up a lot for talent with knowing the fundamentals.”

Don't believe it? Listen as Marshall further tries to convince you: “Just look at Larry Bird. He showed us all what fundamentals were all about. He wasn't a superior athlete. It was his shot. His fundamentals were good, the way he released the ball, passed the ball, boxed out.”

Marshall, 63, is a retired boilermaker who said he misses basketball when he's not around it.

When he learned Clairton was seeking a change in leadership for the girls program, he began to hear some folks around the neighborhoods encouraging him to apply.

“I started to think about it and said, ‘Why not give back to the community what I know about basketball?' ” he said.

Apparently, it's plenty. And Marshall says that's no nonsense.

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

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