Williams takes in action

Carmichaels coach Don Williams takes in the action during a game against Chartiers-Houston at Carmichaels on Feb. 8, 2019. Williams is the career leader in high school basketball wins in Greene County. (Photo by Rob Burchianti)

Sports statistics and the lists made up from them have always fascinated me.

I still occasionally get completely engulfed with the scoreboard page in the newspaper and am always intrigued by “best” and “top 10” lists that pop up on the internet.

I recently was presented with a factual list, one of those where there is no debating who is where, and was intrigued by it.

It was a list of the winningest high school basketball coaches, boys and girls together, in the history of the WPIAL, updated after this past season by Albert Gallatin graduate and former basketball coach Shawn Clemmer.

Of the top 55 coaches on the list, an amazing 21 of them did all or at least part of their winning with local teams. It just proves what a strong basketball tradition this area has.

Of that group of 21, there are four who have registered all their wins with local teams that are still coaching.

Leading that foursome is Joe Salvino, who is tied for sixth in the WPIAL and tied for second locally with a record of 680-281 in 37 years. Salvino coached Monessen boys from 1984 to 2018 when he moved over to Belle Vernon.

Salvino’s almost unbelievable resume includes six WPIAL championships and two state titles at Monessen, and he took the Leopards to the district final last year and semifinals this past season.

Rick Hauger (35th overall/11th locally) is next with a 396-244 record in 27 years, going 232-162 with the Mustangs, who he has coached since 2004, after putting together a 164-82 mark while guiding the Fillies from 1994-2004. Of course, he guided LH to its second ever WPIAL championship a year ago.

Rob Kezmarsky (43rd overall/15th locally) went over the 300-win milestone the past season at Uniontown and has a 304-194 record that includes 283 wins with the Red Raiders and 21 at Albert Gallatin. Kezmarsky, who is one of an eye-opening five Uniontown coaches on the list, said he’s humbled by the company he’s in.

“It’s really a great honor to see my name on that list,” Kezmarsky said. “To see all of the current and past coaches’ records is really neat. Shawn Clemmer did a great job with the list.

“And, it makes you think of all the players and assistant coaches that helped you get to 304 wins.”

The fourth active coach is Jim Romanus (55th overall/21st locally), who has accumulated 206 wins while rebuilding programs at Jefferson-Morgan and then West Greene, where he is now. He’s one of the few local coaches who can actually claim a WPIAL playoff win over Salvino’s Greyhounds, which he did while coaching the Rockets.

Romanus, who also had a coaching stint with the West Greene girls, is second on the career wins list in Greene County.

Let’s take a trek down the list for a closer look. Coaches are for boys basketball, unless otherwise noted.

Ken Misiak, not surprisingly, is the overall leader among the 23 schools in the Herald-Standard coverage area with 730 wins over 49 seasons at Connellsville Immaculate Conception and Geibel Catholic. He was the coach at Geibel from the school’s inception until 2008.

Misiak became legendary as the Gators’ coach and won WPIAL and PIAA titles during an undefeated season in 1978 and another WPIAL title in 1980.

Misiak is No. 3 on the wins list overall behind North Catholic boys coach Don Graham (801) and NC girls coach Don Barth (786).

Tied with Salvino at sixth overall and second among area coaches is the first of the five Uniontown representatives on the list, James “Lash” Nesser with 680 wins in 39 seasons.

Nesser guided St. John’s of Uniontown from 1958 to 1976 before taking over the Red Raiders boys at that point until 1987. He won district and state titles at both schools.

Phil Pergola (11th overall/fourth locally) checks in with 640 wins, most of those coming at Ringgold (295). Pergola coached at three other schools — Mon Valley Catholic, Charleroi and California — and his 50 years is second in the WPIAL only to Graham (51).

The second Red Raiders coach on the list is Abe Everhart Jr. (18th overall/5th locally) who rang up 549 wins in just 29 years. His dad will pop up later on the list. Everhart rang up four WPIAL championships and two PIAA titles.

Each of the top five local coaches has WPIAL and PIAA championships to their credit.

Next among area coaches is the Greene County leader in wins. Don Williams (24th overall/sixth locally) was victorious 512 times in 44 years, all at Carmichaels. Williams tenure is fourth among boys coaches and third longest for a coach at one school.

Tom Traynor (27th overall/seventh locally) had 496 wins with 103 coming at Mount Pleasant following a long stint that produced 393 wins at Hempfield.

Major Corley (29th overall/eighth locally) is No. 1 among local girls basketball coaches on the list with 459 wins in 25 seasons all split over two stints at Monessen. Corley, who won three WPIAL crowns and one PIAA title, is seventh overall among girls coaches.

Right behind Corley is legendary Frazier coach Henry DiVirgilio (30th overall/ninth locally) with 457 wins in 30 years, including a WPIAL crown.

Harold “Horse” Taylor (34th overall/10th locally) went 397-154 in 19 years. He was 320-129 at Laurel Highlands, where he won a WPIAL title, and 77-25 at the old North Union.

Both DiVirgilio and Taylor, along with Everhart, were legendary enough to have gymnasiums named after them.

Taylor will get bumped down a spot next season with Hauger sitting just one victory behind him.

Following Hauger is Ray Trincia (39th overall/12th locally), who had a 350-259 record in 30 years at Albert Gallatin.

Trincia is the most recent (2019) of nine coaches on the list to have been inducted into the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame, along with previously mentioned Misiak, Nesser, Everhart, DiVirgilio and Taylor and three more to come further down the list.

Laurel Highlands athletic director Mark John (40th overall/13th locally) put up 338 wins as a head coach with 273 of those coming with the Mustangs and 65 with the Fillies.

Just two wins behind John is Dan Andria (41st overall/14th locally) who was 336-213 in 24 years. Andria coached mainly at Fairchance-Georges and Albert Gallatin (two stints) followed by a two-year stint at Geibel Catholic. He led both F-G and post-consolidation AG to their greatest seasons, reaching the WPIAL championship game with each.

Kezmarsky is next, 17 wins behind Oakland Catholic girls coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, and is followed by Connellsville’s Hal Weightman (47th overall/16th locally) who piled up 264 wins in two stints with the Falcons totaling 26 years.

Three wins behind Weightman is George Bortz (48th overall/17th locally) who went 261-48 in 14 seasons, all but two of those with the Geibel Catholic girls. Bortz, who also coached Brownsville boys for two years, led the Lady Gators to five WPIAL titles, including four in a row.

Bill Swan (50th overall/18th locally) won 58 games at Connellsville before moving on to his current post at Hempfield, where he has added 195 more victories for a total of 253 over 18 seasons.

Dave Shuck (51st overall/19th locally) is the third Uniontown coach on the list. Shuck had a sparkling 228-78 record in 12 seasons over two different stints with the Red Raiders, winning a WPIAL title and reached the PIAA final twice.

Weightman, Bortz and Shuck have each been inducted into the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame.

Abe Everhart’s father, A.J. Everhart Sr. (54th overall/20th locally) is the fifth Uniontown coach on the list. He had a stellar record of 213-39 in 20 years with the Red Raiders and led them to their first state championship.

Romanus is the only other local coach to have gone over 200 career wins.

There is one other local connection on the list and that’s Frazier graduate Joe Lafko, who is 26th overall with a 503-320 record over 31 years that includes a 59-30 mark at Warren and a 444-290 record at Hampton, where he still coaches today.

So there you have it, a spectacular list of which local coaches/graduates make up exactly 40 percent.

Coaching tenures don’t seem near as long nowadays, but we’ll keep an eye on the list to see if any other local coaches can creep up above the 200-win mark.

Rob Burchianti can be reached at rburchianti@heraldstandard.com or on Twitter (@rvburch).

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