Longtime McKeesport High School football coach George Smith walked away from the job yesterday, only three wins shy of 200 for his career.
Smith, McKeesport's coach for 28 seasons, resigned after a meeting with McKeesport superintendent Michael Brinkos, assistant superintendent Tim Gabauer and athletic director Charley Kiss. Smith was highly successful as McKeesport's coach, building the Tigers' program into one of the best in WPIAL Class AAAA the past two decades. He won two WPIAL titles and is one of only two WPIAL coaches to win two PIAA titles at the Class AAAA level. The other is Upper St. Clair's Jim Render.
Smith's record at McKeesport was 197-107-5. Smith couldn't be reached for comment, but Kiss said Smith would like to wait a day or so before speaking about his decision.
"We knew this was a possibility," Kiss said. "We didn't push him for anything. He just decided there were some things that were too hard to overcome with the way we do some things in our district."
Ty-Meer Brown, Mc-Keesport's quarterback the past two seasons, said: "If he's not the best coach in the WPIAL, he's one of the best. A lot of people looked past what he does. But he didn't just make us better football players. He made us better people."
Kiss played quarterback for Smith for two seasons (1996 and '97).
"For myself and the school personnel, to find someone to carry on the tradition he started, is a big responsibility," Kiss said.
Two talented two-sport athletes have transferred elsewhere in the WPIAL. But their eligibility at their new schools is up in the air.
Dylan Bongiorni, a sophomore, quit the Burgettstown basketball team a few weeks ago and enrolled last week at West Allegheny. Bongiorni was averaging 19.7 points a game and also was Burgettstown's starting quarterback in football the past two seasons. He passed for more than 1,000 yards as a freshman.
Meanwhile, junior Terrance Stepoli of Monessen was thrown off the Monessen basketball team recently, and has since enrolled at Greensburg Central Catholic. Besides playing basketball, Stepoli has been the Greyhounds' football quarterback the past three seasons.
Before both players become eligible for any sports, they will most likely face hearings in front of the WPIAL to determine if the transfers were for athletic reasons. Both players could lose eligibility if it's found the transfers involved, in any way, athletic intent.
WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said his office has yet to receive paperwork on either transfer. When that happens, the WPIAL will move forward on both cases.
Burgettstown athletic director Jon Vallina said the school will contest Bongiorni's transfer and not give a "principal to principal" signoff because the school believes the move was partly for athletic intent. Vallina said Bongiorni (6 feet 2, 170 pounds) did not move with either of his parents to the West Allegheny district. Bongiorni and his parents could not be reached for comment.
"We feel there is some athletic intent involved, due to some disagreements he had with coaches here," Vallina said. "We met with his parents and told them that anytime someone moves without one or both parents, that's one of the things that can be athletic intent."
At West Allegheny, the Indians won the WPIAL Class AAA football championship this past season, and their quarterback (Jared Buck) was a senior. Bongiorni would have two years eligibility remaining.
Monessen is not contesting Stepoli's transfer to Greensburg Central Catholic, a parochial school. But all transfers of students from a public to a private or parochial school must be approved by the WPIAL before the student becomes eligible for athletics.
Monessen coach Joe Salvino said he threw Stepoli off the team earlier this month. Stepoli (6 feet 4, 203 pounds) still has a brother, Josh, at Monessen who is on the basketball team. Also, Stepoli's father, Jim, is a Monessen assistant basketball coach.
"We're not contesting [the transfer] because it's more of a family issue than anything else," said Salvino. "Terrance and I have no hard feelings toward each other. I think Terrance will do well at Greensburg Central. I wish him all the luck in the world."
Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1975. First Published January 26, 2010 5:00 AM