South Xtra: New coach is eager to get started at West Mifflin
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Rob Yeschenko is a father, a teacher and a DJ.
He recently added the title head girls basketball coach to that list, too.
Yeschenko was named the new coach at his alma mater, West Mifflin Area High School, in late June. Yeschenko takes over the reins of a perennial power, which has had just one losing season over the past two decades.
"I just looked at this as being a great opportunity," said Yeschenko, a 1999 graduate. "The program has been a very successful one and at the top of the rankings for years. There's just been a winning tradition."
It's an important hire for a program that has lacked coaching stability the past few winters. Phil Shar, who led the program to its only WPIAL title, was one of the most highly successful coaches in Western Pennsylvania for 19 seasons before losing the position two years ago after butting heads with then superintendent Pat Risha, who is now deceased.
Mindy McClelland, a former player and assistant coach for Shar, took over the program the next season, but Shar returned this past winter and led the Titans to a 17-7 record and a trip to the WPIAL quarterfinals.
Shar found himself out of a job once again this March, however, after it was ruled he could not retain his position because he is a district school board member.
That said, committing to a coach long term was something the program desperately needed.
"I think it's very important for the kids," said West Mifflin boys coach Lance Maha. "Unfortunately, the situation was what it was the last couple of years. There's been a question of who the head coach is from year to year.
"But it's not like there isn't a foundation. The girls need to know that Robbie is going to be their coach. I think one of the strengths when Phil was coach was stability. They just played a certain way. There was a system. I think this can be a similar situation."
Yeschenko's coaching background doesn't go back that far, but he's held several positions, not all in basketball. He was West Mifflin's ninth grade basketball coach from 2006-2010, the school's head boys soccer coach from 2006-2008, as well as an assistant for the CCAC-South men's basketball team for one year.
This, however, will be Yeschenko's first time coaching girls, a transition he doubts will complicate his new role. Yeschenko, a middle school math teacher in the district, said things are moving along quickly.
Helping Yeschenko maintain that pace has been none other than Shar, who taught Yeschenko in high school. Shar has been very supportive of Yeschenko, who said he won't shy away from asking Shar for advice every now and then.
"I spoke with him briefly. He helped me out and got me started," Yeschenko said. "I'm going to look to him at times just as far as what he used to do and what he did in certain situations because he's been so successful."
Yeschenko was also quick to gain the endorsement of Maha.
"I think it was a very good hire," said Maha. "As a West Mifflin kid, he has a good understanding of the program and where it's been. He'll be a solid X's and O's guy. Even beyond that, he'll be a good fit for our kids."
Maha said he envisioned Yeschenko being a coach ever since he coached him. Yeschenko started at point guard his senior season under Maha.
"I thought he would end up being a coach somewhere. I just didn't know what sport," Maha said of Yeschenko, who was also a baseball and soccer standout. "He always had the leadership, knowledge and intelligence."
So now Yeschenko -- who along with a friend operate a DJ company named Steel City Sounds -- hopes to turn up the volume of a program that has produced many hits over the years.
"These girls are dedicated and it seems like a talented group," he said. "I enjoyed taking on that leadership and I'm hoping to help bring a title back to West Mifflin."
First Published July 28, 2011 12:00 am