Girls coach says he was forced out by Upper St. Clair

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Ernie Koontz, successful and longtime girls basketball coach at Upper St. Clair High School, said he didn’t want to step away from the job he held for 29 seasons but was forced to resign.

Koontz, who won five WPIAL titles, one PIAA title and more than 500 games, submitted his resignation earlier this week. This came after a meeting with Upper St. Clair athletic director Matt Mellinger in late February when, Koontz said, he was told to retire or resign or the school board would open his position.

“I was given the old proverbial reason that the program is stale and stagnant, and the school wants to go in a different direction,” Koontz said yesterday. “It felt like I was kicked in the gut.

“I was told to either retire or resign and to take a couple weeks to think about it and decide what direction I wanted to go. So, I just gave them my formal resignation a few days ago.”

Koontz is 63.

“It sounded like they wanted somebody younger,” he said.

Mellinger said yesterday that Koontz has “done a lot of great things for our district” but couldn’t comment further on a personnel matter.

Koontz is one of only six coaches to win five WPIAL titles, and his teams finished second twice. His record was 535-232 with 14 PIAA playoff appearances and 23 WPIAL playoff appearances. He won nine section titles. His most recent WPIAL title was in 2008, but, in the six years since, Upper St. Clair’s record was 70-69.

“I still love the sport and I just want to take a few months off to see what’s what,” Koontz said. “Maybe I’ll resurface again somewhere else.”

Mike White:, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.

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