Plum basketball's Richards adds golf to coaching resume
Ron Richards is known as a fiery basketball coach, and through his two tenures as head mentor to the Plum varsity boys basketball team, he has helped bring a great deal of success to the program, including section championships and several playoff appearances in more than a decade on the job.
This fall, Richards will put on a new coaching hat and head out on the course as the new Plum boys golf coach. He was approved by the Plum School Board at a recent voting meeting.
“Without a doubt, I would be considered a golf junkie,” Richards said.
“I play every day I possibly can. I wasn't sure how many others were interested in doing it, but I thought I could help out the kids, so I decided to go ahead and pursue it.”
Richards replaces longtime Mustangs golf coach Keith Nonnenberg, who stepped down as coach after the 2012 fall season.
“I keep track of all Plum sports, and I talked to Keith about (the job),” Richards said.
“Keith was the one who encouraged me to pursue it. We don't do much more than lift and condition for basketball in August and September, and those are the two big months for golf. The timing of everything worked out. I want to see how everything balances out so I can give the best of my time to both.”
The boys golf team was fairly young in 2012, and those players got a great deal of varsity experience that should help them in 2013.
Sophomore Andrew Reynolds was a player who stood out for the Mustangs last fall, and he qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals after faring well at the Section 4 qualifier at Meadowink Golf Course in Murrysville.
Reynolds finished the season with the team's lowest average in dual-match competition.
Freshman Samantha Shumaker also provided some strong rounds for the boys team, and she qualified for the WPIAL girls golf championships with a successful score at the Section 3-AAA qualifier at Saxonburg Golf Course.
Sophomores Justin Sovak, Roger Gestner and Rich Rossi, as well as junior J.P. Predmore, fared well for the Mustangs during the 2012 season, and they are eligible to be back to form the core of the team this fall.
Richards said he's excited to be able to get to know the kids more.
“Golf is such a different sport than basketball, but there are some similarities,” Richards said.
“It will be fun getting out there, working with the kids and seeing what I can do to help them. It's much more of an individual sport than basketball, but in the team matches, the individual is playing for his or her team, the school and the community.”
Under the tutelage of head coach Kory Flaherty, the Plum varsity girls volleyball team made another WPIAL playoff appearance in 2012.
The Mustangs return a number of key players for 2013 as they hope to make another playoff run.
Flaherty still will be a part of the team in the offseason and into the fall but not as much as he has previously.
His wife is taking part in an obstetrics fellowship at a medical facility in Rochester, N.Y. She already completed a residency in the Pittsburgh area, and the final step in becoming a full-fledged doctor is the one-year fellowship, which begins in July.
Flaherty works for First Niagara Bank, which is headquartered in Buffalo, and he was able to be transferred for the year. He will commute between Rochester and Buffalo.
“We are very blessed to have this opportunity and blessed for the way things worked out,” Flaherty said.
“My wife applied all over the country, and we thought she might be on the west coast or somewhere where I wouldn't be able to come with her. She's been through quite a bit with her medical training, and it's great that I will be able to be there for her final year of training.”
Because of the move, which starts in July, he will not be able to give a full-time commitment to the girls volleyball team. He will, however, be able to be a volunteer coach.
“I will work out of the Pittsburgh office every so often, so I hope to make it back for important matches and be there to help whenever I can,” Flaherty said. “I plan on attending open gyms until we have to leave.”
The job of head coach will be covered by Mike Larko Jr., who served as the Burrell girls head coach the past two seasons and is the Plum boys head coach in the spring.
“I have no doubt it will be a seamless transition,” Flaherty said. “If anything, we're moving up in the amount of volleyball knowledge the girls will have available to them.”
Flaherty also is happy to know that Scott Smithley, who coached with him in the fall, will remain with the Plum girls program.
“It was tough to know I would be giving up the coaching position, but I was relieved to know that Mike was coming in and Scott was staying on,” he said.
Flaherty said he doesn't know what the situation will be when he comes back to Pittsburgh full time.
“The long-term coaching solution will work itself out down the road,” he said.
“Whatever is best for the team, I'm sure, is what will happen.”
Larko said he's confident the transition will work out for everyone involved.
“Kory is a great guy, and he's done a great job with the girls team since he's come to Plum,” Larko said.
“I've gotten to know a lot of the girls through Junior Olympic volleyball, and I am looking forward to coaching them.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.