During his 34-year Hall of Fame career as the head coach of the Monessen boys basketball team, Joe Salvino amassed 639 wins, six WPIAL championships and a pair of PIAA crowns.

Salvino’s 640th win will be on the sidelines of the Belle Vernon Area Leopards.

Salvino was hired Tuesday night at a school board work session meeting.

The veteran coach talked about his decision to leave “home” and take on a new challenge at this point in his life.

“I just thought it was an opportunity at this time in my career that I thought I should take advantage of,” he said. “I am not going there to win games, I want to win championships.

“The kids will have to put the effort in. I have to learn who they are and they have to learn who I am, and everyone has to adapt.”

Belle Vernon Director of Athletics Matt Humbert talked about Salvino coming on board.

“We are excited to welcome a coach that has won two state championships and six WPIAL titles,” he said. “Having a local coach with a tremendous pedigree step in and take the reigns of our program will hopefully allow for a smooth transition.”

Salvino takes over for Kyle DeGregorio, who stepped down to take the girls job at Baldwin, where he is a school counselor.

“Kyle did a great job for us and took the program to new heights,” Humbert said. “We are hoping Joe can come in and instantly pick up where Kyle left off and further develop this program.”

Salvino said that his system is similar to what DeGregorio ran.

“Kyle ran a fast-paced offense and played man defense, so I am sure I will be satisfied in what we do,” he said. “Basketball is supposed to be fun and I want it to be fun for them and if they have fun, they will be more involved.”

So, how did Salvino’s move to Belle Vernon happen?

“Matt and I spoke and he asked me if I was interested,” Salvino said. “I said I was, but had to think about it and he gave me a week.

“I wasn’t going to take it and it is as if I thought too much about it, but then Matt and I spoke again and I asked if I could still apply.”

Salvino said that Humbert is a big reason as to why he is making the move.

“Matt is a good person and one of the main reasons I am headed there is how he handled things,” Salvino said. “He made the entire process comfortable for me.”

Salvino’s concern about the future of his alma mater also factored into the decision.

“No one knows what the future of Monessen holds and something can happen by the end of next year and not be around,” he said. “I am not wishing anything bad, but you never know.”

Salvino’s emotions wavered daily from staying at Monessen to taking the Belle Vernon job.

“I believe that if you think long, you think wrong and for years, I have told my players that you only have so many opportunities in life and the opportunities won’t come back,” said Salvino, who has had interest shown in his direction by Belle Vernon in the past although nothing came to be. “I don’t want to wonder what if.

“People don’t take chances sometimes and they regret it. They stay satisfied and don’t want to take that chance.”

Salvino said leaving Monessen is one of the hardest things he has ever had to do.

“I coached there for 34 years and leaving the kids is hard,” he said. “(Monessen Athletic Director) Gina (Naccarato) and I work really well together and everyone trusted me with things that I thought should happen.”

Only two Belle Vernon players, rising juniors Cam Nusser and Jared Hartman, started games a year ago and are the only two players from the rotation who return. There are no rising seniors who were on the roster a year ago.

“It is exciting and I feel like I am starting over,” said Salvino. “I can’t wait to get to know the kids and this is a new challenge.”

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