New coach Scorpion guiding Franklin Regional boys basketball through summer workouts
Steve Scorpion was in eighth grade in 1997 when the Franklin Regional boys basketball program captured its first section championship before going on to win the WPIAL title and finish as PIAA runner-up.
He served one season as an assistant coach with the Panthers under Doug Kelly in 2007, one year before the squad won its second section crown.
Scorpion was close to being on the court for both section titles. Now, as head coach, he hopes to help deliver another section banner, and more, for his alma mater.
“I want to bring more championships to Franklin Regional,” said Scorpion, who was hired as Panthers boys coach one month ago. “It is a blessing to be the head coach here.”
His ties to Franklin Regional and his experience in basketball coaching and instruction, including working with several current members of the Panthers JV and varsity squads, prompted FR parents, players and others with close program ties to encourage him to apply for the job.
“For so many parents and kids to reach out and ask me if I was interested in the job and to have all their support is very humbling,” said Scorpion, the director of the Basketball Stars of American program who also conducts private workouts for 15 to 20 area boys and girls players.
Brad Midgley resigned in the spring after eight seasons with an 84-97 record. He led the Panthers to four WPIAL playoff appearances. Last season, the Panthers picked up their first PIAA playoff win since 1997.
In the four weeks since he was hired, Scorpion has begun to get a good sense of the kind of team that can take the court when preseason practices begin in November.
He sees the potential with the returning varsity players meshing with the up-and-coming talent that was successful in JV competition last winter.
“The guys have been working really hard,” Scorpion said. “We started to put a few things in because we were playing in that Westmoreland County shootout (July 7). It's basically been a lot of skill work, ball handling, footwork, moves off the dribble and getting a lot of shots up. We'll start putting more stuff in the rest of this month. In the summer, that's how you get better.”
Franklin Regional finished the 2016-17 season 14-12 overall and 6-4 in Section 3-5A. The Panthers lost to eventual WPIAL Class 5A champ Moon in the WPIAL quarterfinals but avenged the loss with a one-point win over the Tigers in the PIAA first round.
Rising senior Nate Leopold, a 6-foot guard, earned first-team Section 3 honors.
The two-sport athlete (football) is excited to have Scorpion aboard and is looking forward to what the 2017-18 squad can accomplish.
“Coach Scorpion brought in a similar system to what Coach Midgley had,” Leopold said. “He plays to our strengths, which is what a good coach does. He came in and didn't try to over-coach. It's a good mix right now.
“We're very excited about where the team is. We have several pieces back from the team that beat the WPIAL champion in the state playoffs. We are very confident.”
Leopold and fellow rising senior Hunter Stonecheck, a forward who earned second-team all-section honors as a junior, are balancing basketball workouts this summer with other responsibilities, including preparation for football, which begins with preseason practices Aug. 14.
“Coach Scorpion's been really great about that,” Stonecheck said. “He said for us to get in the gym once or twice a week and get some shots up.”
Franklin Regional will head to Riverview on Monday to take part in a workout with the Raiders seventh- and eighth-grade, freshmen and varsity/JV teams.
“That will be another great way for the younger guys to learn more of the system,” Scorpion said.
Scorpion said open gyms continue Thursday evening and feature former Franklin Regional players, current college players and players from other high schools.
“It's good for the current high school guys to go against some older veteran players who have made a name for themselves at different levels,” Scorpion said. “It's a fun and relaxed atmosphere, but guys have been really getting after it.”
Scorpion is third on the Franklin Regional all-time scoring list behind Nick Novak and Aaron Lovelace. He holds the school record for career 3-pointers made. He also has the Pitt-Johnstown record for made 3-pointers, and he finished with more than 1,000 points.
Last year, Scorpion was on the bench at Penn Hills as an assistant with Indians coach Dan DeRose.
Scorpion's coaching stops also include The Kiski School, where he spent four years, two as head coach; Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., where he coached former Pitt standout and Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams; and Polk State in Lakeland, Fla., where he coached former Beaver Falls and Nebraska player Lance Jeter.