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Kokoski skips to Charleroi to coach boys basketball

| Sunday, June 5, 2005

Skip Koskoski was ready for a new challenge and he found it at Charleroi High School.

The former girls basketball coach at his alma mater, Ringgold High School, Koskoski, 44, will take with him 16 years of coaching experience -- all with girls. Next season, however, he will be Charleroi's boys basketball coach.

"It will definitely be a change," Koskoski said. "But I don't how much of one it will be and probably won't until the season starts or maybe even ends."

He suspects boys may have more basketball savvy because of the extensive television coverage of the National Basketball Association and Division I men's college basketball, but adds that both genders give equal effort.

"From what I saw at Ringgold and California the girls play every bit as hard as the guys," Koskoski said.

His head coaching career started with Ringgold's girls basketball coach in 2002. Prior to that, Koskoski was an assistant women's basketball coach for 13 years under three different head coaches at California University of Pennsylvania. He started coaching as a boys assistant at Our Lady of Sacred Heart in Coraopolis before spending two seasons at Belle Vernon Area High School with Don Asmonga and one at Bentworth High School with Vince Quatro.

Koskoski starred on the 1978 and 1979 Ringgold basketball teams coached by Fran LaMendola. Those squads combined for 45 victories and advanced to the WPIAL semifinals and state playoffs his senior year.

"When I played in high school, we were pretty successful against Charleroi but those kids always played real hard and you always knew you were in for a tough game," said Koskoski, who singled out former Cougar stars Jim Lundy, Matt Panich and Rob Uhlman. "From the coaching quotes I read in the paper from Nick Milchovich (football) and Greg Melvin (former Charerloi boys basketball coach) it seems like nothing has changed at Charleroi and they have the same type of kids. You always read about them praising their kids' efforts. In today's world, if a coach can get the top effort from his players all the time, then you have to be excited."

Koskoski also believes the Charleroi athletic program overall is on the rise.

"Charleroi has always had a solid baseball tradition," he noted, "and when you look at how they recently performed in the well-publicized three male sports (football, baseball, basketball) you can see there is a lot of good things going on. They could be as good in those sports as any school in the valley."

During his three years at Ringgold, Koskoski coached the Lady Rams to consecutive WPIAL playoff appearances and a 9-14 record a year ago. Last season, Ringgold was placed in the WPIAL Class AAAA Section 4, which included perennial powers Bethel Park and Mt. Lebanon, both championship-caliber teams.

"I think our success was more of a testament to the players and their efforts," said Koskoski. "We did not have a girl over 5-10 and to be competitive against quality Class AAAA teams is a credit to the girls and their determination and scrappiness."

Despite the on-court success, Koskoski did not believe the overall commitment to and support for him were evident, which spurred his coaching move.

"Tears were flowing in the locker room from the players and me when I informed the team I was leaving and it was a very difficult day," Koskoski said. "Ringgold is where I went to school and I would have liked to stay there 10 or 20 years but I did not feel like I had the support. It's hard to coach when you are worried and looking behind your back, so it was time for me to move on."

Koskoski's playing credentials have set a standard for his future teams to emulate.

Koskoski was a dominating post-player at NCAA Division I Robert Morris University in Moon Township in the early 1980s, and helped the Colonials and former head coach Matt Furjanic win back-to-back Northeast Conference championships, earning consecutive NCAA tournament appearances in 1981-82 and 1982-83.

After a 94-62 loss to Bob Knight-coached Indiana University in 1982, Koskoski and the Colonials lost by just two points (55-53) to Gene Keady-coached Purdue in 1983. Koskoski still ranks third among all Robert Morris' career rebound leaders with 608 career rebounds.

Koskoski has played and coached with many outstanding quality coaches. His Donora Junior High School coach was legendary Joe Lopez, and he credits current California University women's basketball coach Darcie Vincent for helping him be a better coach. Vincent coached the Vulcans to the NCAA Division II national championship two years ago.

"What I learned most from Darcie is how she can get in a player's face one minute and smile or joke with the same person a little later," said Koskoski. "She gets the absolute most out of her kids and really knows how to push the right buttons. I always thought I had that in me, but I think learning that from her really put that skill into me."

Koskoski's anxiousness for a new start at Charleroi was so evident that he did not even inquire about a salary until after he earned and accepted the position.

"I've known Coach (Bill) Wiltz (Charleroi athletic director) a long time and the superintendent (Dr. Brad Ferko) commended me a couple of times for how good he thought I did during the interview process," Koskoski said. "I am glad to be at Charleroi and want to prove myself to them and the team. I am looking forward to this."

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