Xtra Points: Ex-coach will give politics a whirl

Lee to campaign for a seat on City Council

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During his 16 years as a high school basketball coach, you could say John Lee did his share of, ahhh, politicking with officials.

Lee hasn't coached a game in 11 years, but he's itching to do some politicking again. But not from a basketball bench.

Lee, 52, is hoping to get into politics. He has filed paperwork and entered the race as a candidate for Pittsburgh City Council, seeking the Democratic party endorsement for District 4, which represents the neighborhoods of Beechview, Bon Air, Brookline, Carrick, Overbrook and part of Mount Washington.

Lee is a former WPIAL championship coach, guiding Seton-LaSalle to the WPIAL Class AAA championship in 1989. He coached at Quigley for two years, Seton-LaSalle for six, Bishop Canevin for four and Baldwin for four before retiring from Baldwin in 2002.

So what in the name of retired coaches would make Lee want to get into politics? It's not often you see a successful coach try to get on City Council. They might run youth camps, golf a lot or teach. But politics?

Lee always was a coach with a fine sense of humor, but his candidacy for City Council is no joke.

"I've actually thought about it for a lot of years," said Lee. "I don't consider myself a politician. I consider myself an advocate for these neighborhoods."

Lee is a lifelong Brookline resident.

"Somewhere down the line, I said I have to step up and give back to places that meant so much to me," Lee said.

Lee's campaign manager is another high school coach -- Bill Gallagher, the football coach at Perry Traditional Academy in the City League. Gallagher also lives in Brookline and has known Lee since their childhood days.

"I think I can put together a pretty good team," Lee said. "From my coaching and being in the post office, it has given me a good background into what exactly these people need."

Lee retired Dec. 31 from a management position with the U.S. Postal Service. In the May primary, he will have to defeat incumbent Natalia Rudiak.

But seeking a spot on Pittsburgh City Council isn't Lee's only new venture. He is helping some family members run Coach's Bottleshop and Grille, a new restaurant near Dormont that opens tonight. On top of all this, Lee will continue to be a color commentator for high school football and basketball games on the radio and Internet for MSA Sports.

"It's a whole new me," Lee said with a laugh. "It was time to get out of the coaching when I did. If I could coach right now, I think I could be a good coach again. But I opted to go this way and I think I can impact more people this way."

Coyne picks track

It might not be an overstatement to call Chartiers Valley's Kristina Coyne one of the most versatile athletes in the history of WPIAL girls sports. But Coyne has settled on one sport for college.

Coyne, a senior, signed a letter of intent Wednesday with Eastern Michigan, where she will compete on the track and field team.

Coyne is expected to finish her career at Chartiers Valley with an incredible 15 varsity letters -- four in basketball, four in track and field, three in football, three in soccer and one in volleyball.

Football? Yes, Coyne was a kicker for Chartiers Valley's football team the past few seasons while also playing on the girls soccer team. This past fall, she gave up soccer and played on the volleyball team.

She has been a three-year starter on Chartiers Valley's girls basketball team.

"Dunn" well

When Joe Dunn retired last summer after 26 seasons as a high school basketball coach, he said one of the main reasons for the move was so he could watch his children play sports. His two daughters are giving dad something to see.

Mary Dunn is a 6-foot-1 freshman on the Trinity girls team and has had a few double-doubles this season. Ninalee Dunn, a 5-9 sophomore, also sees some varsity playing time.

Joe Dunn coached 26 seasons at Trinity, Mount Pleasant and Seton-LaSalle and won 324 games.

"It has been so much fun," Dunn said. "I walked away just because of a matter of time management and also what's important to my family and me. Now I don't miss any of my kids' games."

But Dunn also claims he has learned a few more things about basketball since he stopped coaching.

"I've noticed that people who sit higher up in the stands are smarter," Dunn said, with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. "I keep trying to ascend to their level."

Two titles for Gregory?

Jeannette basketball player Ciara Gregory has a good shot to win the WPIAL scoring title for the second year in a row. It is an admirable accomplishment, but not all that rare in WPIAL girls basketball. It is extremely rare, however, in WPIAL boys basketball.

Gregory would be the fifth girl since 2000 to lead the WPIAL in scoring in consecutive years. The others are St. Joseph's Jacqi Diez (2009-10), Southmoreland's Vanessa Abel (2006-07), Clairton's Kamela Gissendanner (2002-03) and Steel Valley's Jess Strom (2000-01).

Since 1980, there has been only one boy to lead the WPIAL in scoring two years in a row. That was Highlands' Micah Mason in 2011 and last year.

"Tech" talk

The West Mifflin-Belle Vernon girls game last week had a finish not often seen. A technical foul for excessive celebration with 0.7 seconds left in regulation helped determine the outcome.

West Mifflin was leading Belle Vernon, 51-48, when West Mifflin's Alyssa Cairns was fouled with 0.7 on the clock. But a technical foul was called on West Mifflin for coming on the court to celebrate the big win. Cairns made one of two free throws to make it 52-48. Belle Vernon's Meaghan Murphy made both free throws for the technical to make it 52-50.

Belle Vernon then in-bounded the ball at midcourt because of the technical. The Leopards got the ball to Jessica Slagus for a layup to send the game into overtime. Belle Vernon then won in overtime, 64-58.


Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com


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