Rod Scott has taken over the Penn Hills girls' basketball program after four seasons coaching at Franklin Regional.
Scott, who led Northgate to a PIAA runner-up finish as a player in 1978 and went on to play at Duquesne, appears to have the talent and the size to turn the Indians back into a playoff contender.
More than 10 years ago, Penn Hills was one of the premier programs in the WPIAL, with seven consecutive district titles, but the program has fallen on hard times without a single playoff appearance since the mid-1990s.
Scott has a foundation to build Penn Hills into a winner with 6-foot-2 junior forward Taja Wilson, projected as a Division I college prospect.
Wilson scored 24 points last week in leading Penn Hills (4-1) to a 61-38 non-section rout of North Hills at home. Penn Hills led, 40-16, at halftime as Scott liberally went to his bench in the second half.
Wilson is not the only player of note for Penn Hills. The Indians also feature 6-4 senior center Janie Killian as well as 5-5 senior guard Lyndsey Duell and her sister Nicole Duell, a 5-5 junior guard.
Lyndsey Duell and Wilson earned all-tournament team honors in finishing second at the Shaler Invitational the opening weekend of the season. The Indians lost to the host Titans, 61-47, in the title game after opening with a 41-37 victory against Montour, last season's WPIAL Class AAA runner-up.
Other players who saw action at Shaler include 5-6 sophomore guard Jessica Field, 5-11 junior forward Julia Pavlone, 5-6 senior guard Amanda Wallace, 5-7 sophomore guard Annamarie Truckley and 5-9 freshman forward Renee Jones.
"We're trying to find the right chemistry and I want to give everybody an opportunity to see which girls are most comfortable out there," said Scott, appointed as the head coach in September. "I would have liked to have been able to do some evaluation during the summer and to also get the girls acclimated to the way I run my system, but that's not the way the cards were dealt.
"We need to do a lot of things in a short period of time if we are to be successful."
Scott does not have much time to evaluate the bench strength of his team because the next Penn Hills game opens the Section 2-AAAA schedule tonight at Oakland Catholic, the favorite to win the section and WPIAL championships.
"We need to find ourselves so that we're substituting less," said Scott "I'm very pleased with the effort our girls are giving. They're learning how to play hard. Now they have to learn how to play hard without making mistakes.
"We have to do some of the fundamental things better like help and recover, and run our lanes better on the breaks. We need to find the open girl on offense and our guards need to take command of our offense a little bit better.
"We have a big team, but our forwards have to do a better job of rebounding and taking advantage of that height"
Four days after the game at Oakland Catholic, Penn Hills faces Gateway at home in another section contest. The Gators are coached by Scott's wife, Jennifer Bruce Scott. The Gators' top player is also Scott's daughter, 6-foot junior guard Shayla Scott.
What makes Monday's game against Gateway more interesting for Penn Hills is Shayla Scott played on an AAU summer team that included Killian and the Duell sisters. That team, which was coached by Jennifer Scott, finished fifth at a national tournament in Orlando, Fla. in July.
"Those little caveats are fun," Rod Scott said. "I enjoy the camaraderie and competition. It will be enjoyable going up against the teams in our section for a variety of reasons ... Oakland Catholic is the school that everybody likes to gauge their program against."
The familiarity theme does not stop there for the Indians because Rod Scott's former team, Franklin Regional, also competes in Section 2-AAAA. Penn Hills' third game on the section schedule occurs Jan. 2 at Franklin Regional.
"I miss the girls at Franklin Regional," Rod Scott said. "I still follow them. I'm hoping they win all but four games in the section, the two against us and the two against my daughter's team ...
"Some people question how can I coach in a section going up against my family. This isn't war. I've sat down at a lot of poker games with friends who are brothers and they take each other's money. How someone else looks at this, that's their thing.
"At this point I represent Penn Hills. I look at it like it's enjoyable competition. I want this season to be an enjoyable experience for my players just like basketball has been an enjoyable experience for me and my family.
"I try to keep things in perspective. For me and my family, basketball is just one small aspect to our lives."