East/South Xtra: Basketball tournament honors late teacher/coach

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Randy Gwosden was a loving man and that love filtered to his family, friends and the countless number of lives he impacted as a basketball coach and as a math teacher for 35 years in the McKeesport Area School District.

Gwosden died more than a year ago, but his spirit lives on. Those who knew him will celebrate his life with a special event Saturday.

The first Randy S. Gwosden Scholarship Basketball Tournament will take place at Mc-Keesport's Neenie Campbell Gymnasium.

There will be games at 1, 3 and 5 p.m. The first game pits a McKeesport girls alumni team against their Serra Catholic counterparts. The second contest will feature players from Auberle, many of whom Gwosden once played with. In the third game, the McKeesport boys alumni will square off against Serra.

"All these players are friends and family, and students whom he helped coach," said Gwosden's widow, Becky.

Admission is $5 (children 8 and under are free) and proceeds will go toward the scholarship, which will be awarded in May to a McKeesport senior who has at least a 3.2 grade point average, plans on focusing on math in college and needs financial aid.

Randy Gwosden, known simply as "Coach" by many, died Jan. 10, 2012 at the age of 57 after a battle with multiple myeloma. Gwosden, a 1972 McKeesport graduate, spent many years as a teacher at George Washington Elementary prior to becoming the school's Title I math specialist and eventually the district elementary math coordinator.

Sports -- particularly basketball -- were always one of Gwosden's passions. He played basketball throughout his life, and his list of coaching positions included the McKeesport junior varsity boys, Francis McClure Intermediate School junior varsity girls and in the White Oak Athletic Association.

All three of Gwosden's children are Serra graduates who followed in their father's athletic footsteps. His oldest son, Matt Bacco, played soccer at Pitt-Johnstown and is the South Fayette girls basketball coach. Bria Gwosden was the starting point guard on Serra's 2005 WPIAL and PIAA championship teams, and later played at Pitt-Greensburg. Brett Gwosden currently plays soccer at Point Park.

Matt, Bria and Brett will each participate in Saturday's games.

"All three children were very involved [in athletics], and [Randy] travelled all over the country to see them play," Becky Gwosden said.

Among others playing will be former Serra standouts T.J. and Rob Heatherington, and Laura Grimm, as well as one-time McKeesport star Amy Johns.

In organizing the event, Gwosden has been assisted by sister-in-law Sandie McLaughlin, niece Kerry Pringle and Jennifer Jordan Mrvos, who is on the scholarship committee.

"He was truly a phenomenal, well-liked man," Mrs. Gwosden said. "He never settled for mediocrity and was just so passionate in everything he did."

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