East Xtra: Schifino eager to begin new job

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When the resume came across his desk, Waynesburg Central athletic director Russ Moore could not believe the name on the top -- Drew Schifino.

"That has to be a mistake," Moore recalled thinking.

It was not a mistake. Schifino, a former Penn Hills High School guard who was one of the most prolific scorers in WPIAL basketball history, was applying to become head coach of Waynesburg Central High School.

The same Schifino who scored 147 points in four playoff games to lead Penn Hills to the 2000 WPIAL Class AAAA title.

The same Schifino who is currently the eighth-leading scorer in WPIAL history with 2,318 points.

And the same Schifino who went to play at West Virginia University, where he averaged 20.1 points per game during the 2002-03 season, then California University of Pennsylvania and professionally in the Czech Republic.

Just as surprising as the name at the top of the resume, were the names at the bottom.

Under references Schifino listed the likes of West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon and Pitt assistant Brandon Knight.

After seeing the resume Moore called Schifino to see if the applicant was serious.

"He said his goal was to coach high school basketball in the WPIAL," Moore recalled. "He said the program has some potential -- it could be a diamond in the rough."

On Oct. 15 it became official, Waynesburg had a new coach and Schifino, with limited AAU coaching experience, has begun his high school coaching career.

The Waynesburg program is certainly going through rough times. Waynesburg is 19-47 over the past three seasons and has not won a section game during that span.

"The main reason why I took the job, I wanted a challenge," Schifino said before a Friday night November practice. "I love the intensity. The guys are working hard; I love their work ethic right now."

Schifino is well aware of the challenge presented by Class AAA Section 5, home of Chartiers Valley, Montour, South Fayette, South Park, Keystone Oaks and McGuffey.

Chartiers Valley head coach Tim McConnell was another one of Schifino's references.

"I told him, it will be a little different," Moore said. "You are going to play tough competition. I think next year we are going to drop down to Class AA so this year fight the battles but he kept saying he is going to get that number four playoff spot.

"A great young coach with that attitude is what we need. He isn't waiting until next year. He wants to get it done this season."

Schifino has had many great coaches during his playing days. He mentions his high school coach at Penn Hills Jim Rocco and also his two coaches at West Virginia University, Gale Catlett and John Beilein.

Catlett recruited Schifino to West Virginia; Beilein dismissed Schifino from West Virginia.

Despite being dismissed by his former coach for a violation of team rules, Schifino still respects Beilein, the current coach at the University of Michigan.

"I learned a lot from coach Catlett and a lot from coach Beilein," Schifino said. "Things didn't work out with coach Beilein and me but I always told everyone he is a great coach and a great man."

While the players he inherited were barely in grade school when he was rewriting the record books at Penn Hills, Schifino said his players are familiar with their new coach.

"They know my background," Schifino said. "They know I played at West Virginia and about the playoff records."

Waynesburg only graduated three seniors from last year's team and former coach Dave Sarra was retained and is a member of the coaching staff.

"I think we can compete with Montour and South Fayette," said junior guard Dominick Sarra, the son of Dave. "Coach has a motto for us, 'challenge accepted.' We are trying to go into every game knowing we can compete with all these teams."

Despite the recent struggles of the program and the one-hour -- or more -- drive from his Penn Hills home to the Waynesburg Central gym, it is tough to temper Schifino's excitement.

"I can't even sleep at night," Schifino said. "I am just thinking about the tip-off game, that is very exciting. I was one of the WPIAL greats as a player and now I am trying to match it as a coach. I am very excited."

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