Father figure: Farrell looks to restore winning ways at Riverview
Joe Farrell isn't quitting his day job, he's just making his extended family larger.
Riverview's new boys basketball coach is proud to say he's a stay-at-home dad. Or as he likes to call it, “A professional chauffeur for my kids.”
When some business ventures didn't pan out about 10 years ago, he grabbed an apron, unraveled the cord for the vacuum cleaner and baby-powder clapped like LeBron James. Poof, Mr. Mom.
Farrell's wife, Regina, works in North Hills School District. Their two boys, Joey (11) and David (9), and daughter, Claire (14), have normal childhood activities — sports, camps, etc. — and their father makes sure they arrive on time.
The former Fox Chapel assistant and Oakmont resident, though, said he'll have plenty of time to dedicate to his new venture, “when the kids are at school.”
“I want to watch my kids grow up and be there for them,” said Farrell, 47. “But I have been given an opportunity with this job. It's about improving these kids' basketball and life skills. I'll be there for them, too.”
Farrell takes over for Kevin Krajca, who guided the Raiders for 12 years but was not asked back. There was a hint of awkwardness with the personnel change because Farrell knows Krajca.
“I felt for Kevin,” Farrell said. “Coaches all know each other, and we all talk. But I am not the one who opened up his job. The opportunity presented itself to me, and I took it.”
A Central Catholic graduate, Farrell comes from a basketball family. His father, “Hooks,” and his five brothers, Pat, John, Tommy, Jimmy and Earl, all played at Central, as did Joe.
Joe Farrell played at Central for three years before attending a prep school, Wooster Academy (Mass.), for one year. He played at Clarion for a season and finished his schooling at Pitt.
“I want to take all the years of experience I have playing and coaching and apply it as necessary,” Farrell said. “I'll need to evaluate the team and see what (style) we'll be able to play. I love to press and play man-to-man. We'll have to see.”
Of course, some say Farrell stuffed defense in his back pocket when he played.
“I like to think I was a pass-first, shoot-second guy,” he said. “But one of our coaches at Fox Chapel, George Cypher, would tell you it was the other way around.”
Either way, it was defense-first thinking that he used at Fox Chapel for the last five years under head coach Zach Skrinjar. And he also taught defense when he was a head coach at Aquinas Academy for two years.
“I think Joe will be very successful as a head coach,” Skrinjar said. “Some of the things that he has done for me and will bring to the table are his eye for the game of basketball in general, especially in terms of mismatches, player skill level and player development.
“He also has a good deal of knowledge on the defensive end. I will miss numerous things about Joe; he put in a lot of time at all levels of the Fox Chapel program to help in our success, especially in scouting, camps, conditioning drills and game planning.”
Riverview, which went 7-14 last year and hasn't had a winning season since 2007, will move from Class AA to Class A next season. Krajca led the team to three WPIAL playoff appearances, including two in a row (2010-11 and 2011-12).
Another member of Farrell's extended family is local amateur golfer Sean Knapp, also of Oakmont. Farrell is Knapp's caddie, but he plans to flip roles and bring the former Plum hoops standout on as his assistant. This time, he'll call the shots and Knapp will offer advice.
Knapp's nephew, Paul, will be a junior forward.
Farrell said he'll still caddie for Knapp, although one has to think a full golf schedule would clash with open gyms and summer workouts.
“It won't harm that one bit,” Farrell said. “If I caddie, I'll be back for open gyms at night. And if I'm tied up, Sean's daughter (Kensey) can step in. She's done a great job on the bag before.”
With an additional coaching duty on his schedule, Farrell added an addendum to his job title.
“I'm a stay-at-home dad,” he said, “and a coach.”
He also is a ninth-grade baseball coach and has been the junior varsity golf coach at Fox Chapel. It seems nobody has questioned his loyalty to any venture.
“Joe was very committed and loyal to me not only as a coach,” Skrinjar said, “but more importantly as a friend, and I will miss that the most on a daily basis.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.