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Vlassich returns to coaching ranks at Thomas Jefferson

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Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Springdale girls head basketball coach, George Vlassich, talks with a group of players during practice on Monday at Springdale High School, December 2, 2013

Longtime WPIAL girls’ basketball coach George Vlassich spent the majority of last season living in California, while helping his daughter settle into a new home.

Vlassich enjoyed soaking up the California sun during the winter months, but he didn’t have any thoughts of staying there permanently.

“It’s a great place to visit. The weather is fabulous. We like visiting out there and we like seeing our grandkids, but Pittsburgh’s our place. It’s our home,” he said. “Moving out there is for the younger kids. They’ll be coming home for Christmas and other times, so we’ll still get to see them.”

Upon returning to Pittsburgh this spring, Vlassich found himself with an opportunity to return to coaching, which has been his passion for years.

Vlassich was hired as the Thomas Jefferson girls’ basketball coach last month. He replaces Phil Shar, who had a controversial final year with the Lady Jaguars.

Thomas Jefferson finished 4-18 last year with a roster that mainly consisted of freshmen and sophomores. Ten girls sat out last season refusing to play for Shar.

Vlassich said he didn’t keep up with the situation while he was in California, but is excited for the opportunity to coach at TJ.

“Thomas Jefferson has a rich tradition in athletics and academics,” he said. “They’ve done well in most of the sports, and girls’ basketball isn’t any different.

“There are a lot of kids with athletic talent that come through that school, and we want to continue that. We want to continue to march on and continue building the program.”

Vlassich, 69, first started coaching in the late 1980s in various youth programs where he “instantly caught the bug.”

He didn’t start coaching at the varsity level until he was in his 40s, and has 19 years of varsity coaching experience.

Some previous stops for Vlassich include Hampton, Vincentian Academy, North Hills and, most recently, Springdale, where he coached from 2013-15.

In his final season at Springdale, the Lady Dynamos went 0-19 and had a 6-33 record during his two-year tenure.

Vlassich wasn’t sure if he’d get another opportunity after leaving Springdale, but is happy that he has.

“It’s hard to break old habits,” Vlassich said. “I love coaching, and I’m excited to keep going.”

Vlassich said a lack of players made progress difficult during his time at Springdale, something he doesn’t think will be an issue at TJ.

“One thing at Thomas Jefferson is there is a lot of interest. We’re going to get girls that want to come out and play in the program,” he said.

“I’m sure we’ll have some kids coming up from the middle school, and we’ll have some players coming back from last year.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.

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