George Smith in line to regain head coaching position at McKeesport
It appears McKeesport found its football coach, and the school district didn't have to go far to find him.
George Smith, who spent 28 years coaching the Tigers before suddenly resigning in 2010, is in line to regain his old position when the school board meets Jan. 23.
School board member Chris Halaszynski posted on his Facebook page Monday: “Restoring Tiger Pride Back to McKeesport High School. Welcome Back Coach Smith!!!”
Halaszynski, responding to a Facebook friend comment, added: “He will be (back)! Next Wednesday's public board meeting it will be official. But I am excited for this program. For this community.”
The Facebook post was later removed, but Halaszynski offered later in a separate post: “I was asked to take down my last post. I did get a little ahead of myself, but I must say I am very excited for what's to come.”
McKeesport district spokeswoman Kristen Giran said that the school board will “discuss (the football opening) on the 23rd, but we cannot confirm the candidates because it is a personnel matter.”
Since the school board isn't permitted to discuss personnel matters at a public meeting, a vote likely will occur next week.
McKeesport held second interviews over the weekend with Clairton defensive coordinator Wayne Wade and Baldwin coach Jim Wehner.
Phone calls to Smith and athletic director Charley Kiss were not returned.
Smith won 197 games, two WPIAL and two state titles in 28 seasons at McKeesport. Three former Tigers — Brandon Short, Mike Logan and Russell Stuvaints — went on to play in the NFL.
Smith resigned on Jan. 27, 2010, after having disagreements with the former administration.
“You beat your head against the wall with them,” Smith said of the McKeesport administration two years ago. “This is just like the ‘Forrest Gump' story when he was running and running and running and running, and finally he quit running, and then everybody said what's wrong Forrest and he said, ‘I'm tired, and I'm going home.' ”
Smith will replace Jim Ward, who resigned in early December, after a 19-11 record in three years, including a 15-5 mark in conference play.
McKeesport has made 15 consecutive trips to the WPIAL playoffs and 17 overall since 1993.
Under Ward, the Tigers advanced to the playoffs all three years, and lost in the first round each season — none of which were more disheartening than his first year when his team went 8-1 in the regular season.
McKeesport went 5-5 this year with a first-round playoff loss to Bethel Park. The Tigers will return 18 starters next year.
Smith has received a lot of support from the community to return, including sitting Mayor Michael Cherepko.
Cherepko, who played for Smith during the 1994 state title season, said that Smith would be welcomed back with open arms.
“He is a guy who will help the community not only on the field, but off the field as well,” Cherepko said. “In my mind, he is a no-brainer. No to disrespect anyone else who has put in, but he is a Hall of Fame coach and that's the reality of it. He is well respected in this community, and to have him take care of a program would be nothing but good for the community.”