Oliver: Monessen’s Salvino pushing to achieve success
Very soon, high school basketball teams will officially open practice with high hopes and expectations for a successful 2014-15 campaign.
At this newspaper, schedules for many boys’ and girls’ teams in the WPIAL come across the sports desk. Some are tougher than others.
One boys’ team’s schedule, however, is very eye-opening.
It starts with trips to the Upper St. Clair and Franklin Regional tournaments and includes a Christmas holiday date in the North Allegheny tournament.
Also on the schedule are road trips to perennial powers New Castle, the defending WPIAL and PIAA Class AAAA champions, and Aliquippa. There is even a home date with Clairton on tap.
Before the season opens, there are scrimmages with Bethel Park and Washington.
Sounds like another tough campaign for Chartiers Valley, huh?
Hampton? Uniontown? Seton-La Salle?
No, no and no.
Yes, Class A Monessen.
Some of you probably won’t be surprised because since Joe Salvino took over the program 31 years ago, he has not been shy about playing the toughest nonsection schedule he can find.
This year will be no different for the Greyhounds, who will be coming off a 21-7 season that saw them reach the WPIAL Class A championship game.
“I have always felt that the only way you get better as a team is to play against good competition, to push and challenge the players,” said Salvino, who has a career record of 562-227 (71 percent) at Monessen. “I’m not going to change that now.”
Even though the Greyhounds are Class A — and among the smallest enrollment-wise at that — the school has never had a tough time getting larger traditionally powerful schools to put it on the schedule.
“I think it says a lot about the kind of players we have had and our program,” Salvino said. “Over the years, the bigger schools have seen that we can be competitive. Our style of play probably helps them prepare as much as they help us.”
By the time Monessen opens play in Section 3-A, opponents like California, Jefferson-Morgan, Avella, West Greene, Mapletown and Geibel may not seem so tough.
It’s not that the Greyhounds look past their section opponents, but Salvino says he is thinking long-term when preparing his team.
“The goal is to make the playoffs,” he said, “and in the playoffs there are some outstanding teams out there that we need to be ready for.”
One of those teams, Lincoln Park, is the defending WPIAL and PIAA champion and thumped the Greyhounds in last year’s WPIAL title game, 85-41.
A lot of coaches don’t take the approach Salvino does when it comes to filling out their schedules. But the veteran Monessen mentor doesn’t care what his record is outside the section.
“I’ve had teams lose seven, eight games outside the section and still win the section and do well,” he said. “I could never understand how some coaches schedule the teams they do. To me, it’s not about how many games we can win. It’s how much better we can get as a team to be ready for the playoffs.
“If I’m pushing our kids and they are getting better for it, then that’s all that matters.”
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or [email protected].