Varsity Xtra: Love and basketball at South Side Beaver

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When South Side Beaver High School hired a new girls basketball coach two years ago, the contract language could have read, "I (coach's name) take you, (coach's name), to be my co-coach, from this practice forward, for winning and losing, for offense and defense, in player sickness and health, to love and to watch game film together, as long as we both shall coach."

You may now kiss your co-coach.

Dave and Debby Wilson are believed to be a first in WPIAL basketball -- a husband and wife who are co-head coaches. Heck, it might be a first in any sport in the WPIAL, although there are no records to prove it.

The Wilsons have been married for 20 years, but this is only their second season since they decided to tie the knot as coaches for South Side Beaver, and the school was fine with signing the marriage/coaching license.

"We said we would never do this, but there have been times when we lay in bed at night and one of us will say, 'Do you want to watch the game tape?'" Debby Wilson said with a laugh. "And we'll watch it."

It hasn't all been coaching bliss for the Wilsons. South Side Beaver is 3-6 this season. But for the most part, the Wilsons are happily married to South Side Beaver basketball. Last season, South Side Beaver made the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2004. Even though there have been some struggles this season, the Rams still figure to contend for a playoff spot in WPIAL Class AA Section 5.

"I guess this was sort of my idea," Debby Wilson said. "I had to twist his arm a little bit to do it. But it's funny because he's into it now as much as I am."

"I know the first game last year, one of the game officials said he wanted to see us at the end of the season to see if we were still together," Dave Wilson said, chuckling. "But it's going well. It helped a little last year to make the playoffs."

But what makes a husband and wife want to be co-coaches and how does it work?

"Well, when we interviewed for the position, we interviewed together," Dave Wilson said. "We said from the start that we wanted to do it together."

The Wilsons, who live in Clinton and have two children (ages 18 and 15), have coaching backgrounds. Dave Wilson, 48, played at South Side Beaver and was a former head coach at Seneca Valley for a few years in the 1990s and at South Side Beaver for a year.

Debby Wilson, 49, played at Butler High School (when she was Debby Buzanoski), and in college at CCAC and Grove City. She also had experience years ago as an assistant girls coach at Butler.

But the Wilsons got out of coaching two decades ago when they started having children. Daughter Kylee is now a senior at South Side Beaver, but doesn't play basketball. The Wilsons' son, David, is a freshman on the ninth-grade team.

"A lot of people, when they hear about parents getting into coaching, they think it's because they want to coach their kids. But that wasn't it at all with us," Debby Wilson said. "Dave and I both love basketball and we're not ones to sit around much, so we thought this would be a nice thing to do together. I didn't have head coaching experience, and he did. That's why we kind of thought we'd go into it together."

Dave Wilson said, "I said I'd be glad to get back into coaching if she would take care of the administrative stuff. Debby takes care of that, so I get to pretty much just coach."

But don't get the idea that Debby Wilson doesn't do much coaching. Under high school basketball rules in Pennsylvania, only the head coach is allowed to stand during a game. Assistant coaches must stay seated. Debby and Dave take turns every game on who will stand and be the "head coach." They then inform the officials.

"Although we say we're both in this together, the funny thing is that when you lose a game, I think the one who was standing feels more responsibility," Debby said with a laugh. "My voice doesn't carry as much as his anyway, and I think he does a little better in certain aspects, like that quick coaching decision or last-minute play to run."

As far as X's and O's, the Wilsons willingly use each other's ideas. Dave said his wife works with the team more on zone offenses and defenses, while he has more input on man-to-man offenses and defenses. The husband and wife usually share in player participation ideas also.

"I only remember one time last year where we had a disagreement on a player coming back into a game," Debby Wilson said. "There are times when we disagree on certain things, but I think it's all about how you handle any disagreements. Basketball is like life. You try to talk through it, get over it and move forward."

While the Wilsons story is certainly unique to Western Pennsylvania high school sports, a number of other basketball teams in the WPIAL use the theory of relativity on their coaching staffs.

For Kyle DeGregorio, being an assistant coach is a different experience. He had been a head coach for two decades at four schools. He welcomed the chance to join his brother, Dave, after his job at Baldwin was opened.

"I love it. The whole situation at Baldwin was really hard for me because I felt we were very successful there," DeGregorio said. "But out of tough times comes other opportunities. Since I've gotten the opportunity to work with my brother, I've gotten to see things from a different perspective and I think that's healthy.

"I know my place as an assistant and my place isn't to tell my brother what to do. That's why I don't sit next to him on the bench. I sit between the kids. He doesn't need me giving him advice. I have to find ways to support him and make us a better team."

Gavin Prosser is in only his second season as Baldwin's girls coach and was pleased to have his sister, Erica, be an assistant.

"It's great," Gavin said. "She's an extremely smart girl and she has a lot of good input with us. She doesn't always agree with me, which is good. She has her own opinions, just like my other assistant coaches."

As for the Wilsons, they said they could see themselves coaching together for a while, if they can create more interest in basketball at South Side Beaver.

"It has been more of a softball and volleyball school," Dave Wilson said.

Dave teaches physical education in the Seneca Valley School District and Debby works in pharmaceutical sales.

"We like to keep busy and this keeps us busy," Dave Wilson said. "We usually go straight from work to practice every day from 5 to 7. But we've gotten along pretty well our entire marriage and this is an extension of that. We get along quite well, even coaching-wise."


Other coaches keeping it in the family ...

CRUMMIES -- Two of the top assistants for Central Catholic coach Chuck Crummie are his sons, Devin and Sean. Both Crummie boys played for their father.

YOKITISES -- George Yokitis is Vincentian's boys coach and his top assistant is his son, Danny.

DeGREGORIOS -- One of the North Allegheny boys assistant coaches is Kyle DeGregorio, who is the brother of head coach Dave DeGregorio.

PROSSERS -- At Baldwin, Erica Prosser is in her first year as a volunteer assistant coach for her older brother, Gavin. Erica was a standout player at Oakland Catholic and also Lehigh University.

WELLSES -- For the South Park girls, Reggie Wells' son, Reggie Jr., has served as an assistant coach after the NFL season ends. Reggie Jr. has played with five NFL teams over 10 seasons, including San Diego this year.

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Mike White: or 412-263-1975. Twitter @mwhiteburgh


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