Mon Valley friends team up for banner season at Thiel
Belle Vernon's Dave Pastorkovich reunited on the basketball court with Tim Loomis for the first time in 25 years and helped guide Thiel College (Greenville), to one of its finest seasons ever.
After 17 years as a part-time coach and the primary recruiting coordinator at Carnegie Mellon University, Pastorkovich joined Loomis, who served as a graduate assistant for in the mid-to-late 1980s. The other part-time assistant coaches included John Reimold and Dave Saur.
Pastorkovich helped the Tomcats compile a 20-7 overall record and win the President's Athletic Conference regular season title for the first time ever with a 13-1 mark.
"It was very refreshing to get back into a situation working with Tim," Pastorkovich said. "The team adjusted and adapted to me very well. I think I gave Tim someone he could lean on for advice in game situations and someone he could trust that when he was at practice there was someone out there trying to find him players."
After double-digit playoff victories over Waynesburg and Thomas More, Thiel lost by six points to Bethany in the conference tournament championship game.
The loss ended Thiel's school-record eight-game winning streak and was the Tomcats' only home setback of the season.
Thiel did not receive one of the 18 at-large bids to the 32-team NCAA Division III Tournament despite being ranked fourth in the regional rankings before the conference tournament. The Tomcats' defeated Bethany twice during the regular season.
Loomis praised Pastorkovich who is also the recruiting coordinator and joined his staff late last summer.
"He was a great help coaching wise and during the games," said Loomis. "Dave was a big part of our success this year and we will be better next year. We'll be out recruiting hard the whole year now and expect to add three or four players to this bunch."
Pastorkovich believes having a full calendar year in his current role will strengthen Thiel's recruiting. He looks to make inroads in the D.C., Baltimore and Northern Virginia area. Pastorkovich also said the staff is looking at several Mon Valley seniors. Thiel's fine on-court performance this past season has also helped the recruiting cause.
"Because of our success people are following us now and it's amazing the phone calls I received during the season," he said. "Parents and kids know they can come here to play winning basketball and get a great education, which is our main goal. We want them to leave here and be successful in their lives but also need players that will make practices extremely competitive, like game situations."
What a difference a coach makes
Loomis was selected as the 2011 PAC Coach of the Year which Pastorkovich believes also boosts recruiting efforts. Before Loomis' arrival in 2007, Thiel had the third worst wining percentage in NCAA Division III basketball.
"He is not concerned with individual awards, but the honor is a big deal because that's a reflection of the entire program and our entire body of work," Pastorkovich said.
Everywhere Tim's been he's built a program up. The job's he's done here is amazing."
Before joining CMU, Pastorkovich was a head coach at three different high schools and is in his 26th year as a reading specialist in the Montour school district.
Despite the sudden end to this past season, Thiel's 20 victories were a single-season school record and Loomis believes the sting from the upset loss in the championship game will motivate the team next year.
"The poor kids don't have much to show for it and unfortunately we played not to lose rather than to win in that last game but that's how sports are," Loomis said. "We just have to rebound and get the job done next year. We'll see."
Though practice for 2011-2012 is seven months away the time is now for the program to improve according to Pastorkovich, a 1978 Belle Vernon area High School graduate.
"We can win next year but the real issue or question is how hard are our returning players going to work from now until next season," he said. "You can't just sit on your laurels and I believe our team learned that you have to take care of business when you get there."
One local student-athlete on Thiel's PAC regular season championship squad was R.J. Brownlee, a 6-foot-2-inch sophomore guard from Donora, and Ringgold High School.
He appeared in 17 games and averaged 7.3 minutes per outing while producing 12 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks. Two years ago he appeared in 15 games and Brownlee's effective contribution is not evident on any statistic sheets according to Loomis.
"R.J. is a great kid and improved one hundred percent from a year ago," said Loomis. "He played real important minutes defensively for us and was a defensive stopper for us. Looking ahead to next year he has to improve his offensive skills, but he should be a good player who can put himself in position to play more and more."