South Xtra: Pergola returns to lead Ringgold after 10 years

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Times have been rough in recent years for the Ringgold High School boys basketball team.

The Rams have accumulated a total of eight wins over the past two seasons and school officials have been searching for a coach to change the team's fortunes.

If someone were to list ideal characteristics for the next Rams coach, they would consist of someone familiar with the school, someone with a successful coaching career and winning at the highest level.

Well, the Rams evidently found someone with those credentials. Those in the community are familiar with the name Phil Pergola, the past and now present boys basketball coach for Ringgold.

Pergola, 66, has been a member of the Ringgold community for more than 30 years where he served as a teacher for 33 years and the head boys basketball coach for 18 years from 1986-2003.

"[The head coach position] was open for awhile," Ringgold athletic director Ron McDaniel said. "He and I talked when it was open. No other candidate measured up to what he has done. I asked him if he would be interested and he thought about it for a little. He obviously brings a lot to the table."

Pergola had his fair share of success in his first stint with the Rams, winning the PIAA Class AAAA championship in 1995. His team also reached the state title game in 1990 but came up short.

Pergola also has totaled 579 wins in his 43 years of coaching, making him one of the winningest high school basketball coaches in Washington County.

Pergola, who has stayed in touch with the community even while he was coaching at California Area for the past nine years in Class A, knows it is going to take more than a year to turn the program back in the right direction.

"They gave us a four-year contract and I think it is going to take that long," Pergola said. "We have three seniors on the varsity. The teams in our section are senior-dominated. We are going to work hard and turn the program around but we are going to need all four years to do that."

Pergola will be coaching in his third classification with the Rams competing in Class AAA Section 4.

"Basketball is basketball," Pergola said. "We have to have kids who want to learn and kids who want to play. It's going to be a tough year but I know the kids are going to work hard and try to surprise me."

Pergola has all the support of the school and community behind him since they have witnessed him do it before.

"I am so excited that he is back," McDaniel said. "You can see the energy come back into the program, too. Over 40 kids came to open gym. He creates a lot of excitement."

"A bonus about Phil is that he is a hometown guy. He worked in our district for 30 years. He built the program the first time and hopes to build it back up."

Pergola isn't the only familiar face who is looking to bring glory back to Ringgold High School. Coming along for the ride with Pergola is his long time assistants Jim Williams, Chris DeBerardinis, Rodney Taylor and Chad Papperfaci. Williams was also Pergola's assistant for six years at California.

Although Pergola and his staff will be working hard to bring the Rams back to the playoffs, he knows his work doesn't stop there.

"It comes with responsibility," Pergola said about helping out with the youth program. "We ran the program our first time around and now we have people who run the program and we help them out when they need it. So many people congratulated us and welcomed us back."

One can imagine the congratulatory cheer Pergola will receive on Dec. 10 against Washington when he returns for his first home game since 2003.

"I think when we play our first home game, it is going to be a little strange," Pergola said. "It is a much bigger floor than what we had at California."

It is set in stone that he will coach for at least four more years, but he is not thinking about what will happen after.

"I thought California was going to be the last contract," Pergola said jokingly. "We are going to give it our all for these four years and see where it goes."

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