Obituary: George M. Banky Sr. / Baldwin High basketball coach was father figure to his players

Feb. 13, 1930 - April 24, 2013

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When George Banky coached boys basketball at Baldwin High School, he was so respected by some of his players that they referred to him as "Dad."

"I remember our team was like a family," said Mickey Martin, a star player on the highly successful 1970 Baldwin team. "I vividly remember that we had a plaque made up for him after the season and on the plaque we called him 'Dad.' "

Mr. Banky, of Bethel Park, died Wednesday at UPMC Montefiore in Oakland of complications from pneumonia. He was 83.

As a coach, Mr. Banky was a father figure to his players -- and a winner. He coached Baldwin from 1955-71 and the Highlanders had some excellent teams. Mr. Banky won four section titles in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL), and his 1970 team might be the best in school history. It featured a few future Division I college players and a rough, hard-nosed player better known for his football talent. Dave Wannstedt would go on to be a head football coach in the NFL and also the University of Pittsburgh.

Baldwin made it to the WPIAL semifinals in 1970 before losing at the Civic Arena to powerful Beaver Falls, 78-71. Beaver Falls went on to win a state title.

"We were very close to him," Mr. Martin said. "He was not just a coach. He took a personal interest in us. He wanted all of us to go on to college and be successful not only athletically, but in our careers after college."

Mr. Martin was a 6-foot-5 forward who went on to play at Pitt and was a starter on the 1974 Pitt team that came one win away from making the NCAA Final Four. Besides Mr. Wannstedt, the 1970 Baldwin team also had Bernie O'Keefe, who played at Duquesne University, and 6-foot-9 Dave Gambridge, who played at Saint Francis University (Pa.) before finishing at Saint Vincent.

"At times, we could put a team on the floor that didn't have a player smaller than 6-5," said Mr. Gambridge.

Mr. Banky meshed everything together.

"He did like us to play a physical game," Mr. Martin said.

Mr. Gambridge said, "He had us play fairly simple. We played mostly man-to-man and we would spend a lot of time on box-out drills at practice. Mr. Wannstedt would take the most physical player on the other team, knock him out of the way and everyone else would pick up what was left."

Before coaching, Mr. Banky was an excellent player at Homestead High School and then played at Saint Francis. One of his Saint Francis teammates was Maurice Stokes, a legendary player who went on to play in the NBA. Mr. Banky was a team captain as a senior at Saint Francis.

Besides coaching, Mr. Banky was a biology teacher and then assistant principal at Baldwin High School. His youngest child, George Jr., attended Bethel Park High School and did not play basketball for his father.

"I don't know if I would've wanted him to be my principal," George Jr., of Mt. Lebanon, said with a laugh. "I definitely would've wanted him to coach me. But he still rebounded thousands of shots for me practicing."

Besides his son George Jr., Mr. Banky is survived by his wife of 60 years, Mary Lou; three other children, Maureen Cerny of Murrysville, Kathy Walter of Nashville, Tenn., and Lauren Silay of Bethel Park; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Viewing will be today and Sunday from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. at John F. Slater Funeral Home, 4201 Brownsville Road, Brentwood. Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Monday in St. Germaine Catholic Church, 7003 Baptist Road, Bethel Park.

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Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com, 412-253-1975 or Twitter: @mwhiteburgh.


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