West: Carlynton's new coach already nice and cozy
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An alumnus of Carlynton and the top player on the only WPIAL championship boys basketball team it has ever had, Mike Cozy is a lifelong resident of Crafton who makes his living as a math teacher at Carlynton High School.
Hard to imagine there's anyone more tied to the Cougars' program.
Now, there's no one more responsible for the success of it.
Cozy was hired as Carlynton's boys basketball coach early last month, replacing Kevin Trost, who resigned after two seasons.
Cozy, 42, is a 1988 Carlynton graduate.
"Basketball is what I've been doing the better part of my life in terms of my main interest," Cozy said. "I started playing in the elementary league for Crafton and Carnegie back in fourth grade. At that time Carlynton was doing well; they made the state final when I was in fifth grade.
"That was exciting, and they had a good bit of success all through the 80s and 90s and a lot of good players throughout the 2000s, so there's a good bit of tradition here. It's the sort of thing you want to continue, let the boys know they are part of something that's been going on for a long time."
This is Cozy's second stint in charge of the Cougars, having coached them for three years early last decade.
After leading Carlynton to the 1988 WPIAL title as its standout guard, Cozy played at Saint Vincent College.
He has been a teacher at Carlynton for the past 16 years. His first stint as boys basketball coach at the school was cut short after the birth of his third child.
"My family was getting to the point that it was a lot of work, so I decided to step away," Cozy said.
At that point, did he think he'd ever get back into the profession?
"Anybody who's had three young kids can tell you you don't think that far ahead," Cozy quipped. "You're so overwhelmed; you're just trying to get a good night's sleep."
Cozy hasn't been quite as overwhelmed in taking over a basketball program on short notice, but he is in something of a catch-up mode.
He has had some workouts with the players, but his hiring came too late in the offseason to join any summer leagues or anything too formal.
As much of a historian Cozy is on Carlynton boys basketball over the years, he has been remiss in keeping up with the team as much as he'd have liked since he had that third child and resigned from coaching.
"The goals over the summer are just to get to know them," Cozy said. "I didn't even know the roster too well. When I first thought about getting back into it, I didn't even know teams were in the section. At this point, I'm looking just to get to know the boys and build relationships with the parents and go from there. See what I have."
By all indications, Cozy is a popular teacher at the high school, a factor that could be beneficial at a relatively small school.
"I just think it will help having him being in the building," said Carlynton assistant athletic director Nate Milsom, who is fulfilling the athletic director's duties in the interim. "With our numbers being low, that will help the program."
The Cougars are coming off a 1-21 season -- but Cozy was quick to point out that that record is not a reflection on the job Trost did. The Cougars went 13-10 in his first season.
"Getting more familiar with the program in the last couple weeks, I have to give some compliments to the previous coach," Cozy said. "Even though they didn't win many games last year, I feel like I'm walking into a good situation. You can tell they were coached well, and that's a testament to him. I can work with this group."
Between being so new on the job, still obtaining a familiarity with the personnel and not knowing the competition, Cozy is reluctant to set tangible win-loss goals or expectations for the upcoming season.
"The first thing I want to do is I want the boys to learn to play basketball, and my assistants and I will teach them that the best we know how," Cozy said.
"The second thing is representing our school in a positive manner. When we step out on the court, there's a pride to representing Carlynton the best we can.
"And the third goal is, obviously, we want to compete as hard as we can to win. Those are the three goals I preach, and if we strive for those three things, we'll be a success."
First Published August 2, 2012 12:00 am