New coach, same expectations for Monessen boys basketball
There’s a good chance any early season conversation regarding Monessen boys basketball is going to involve three possible topics.
· Legendary coach Joe Salvino, who guided the Greyhounds to six WPIAL titles, a pair of state championships and more than 600 wins in his 34 years as coach, left to take over at neighboring rival Belle Vernon. Both teams likely have a Jan. 19 nonsection game at Belle Vernon circled.
· Lyndon Henderson, last year’s leading scorer at 22 points per game, moved to Michigan to live with his brother, Elijah Minnie, a Monessen native who plays basketball at Eastern Michigan.
· Because of a February brawl at Clairton involving players and spectators, Monessen’s athletic department — and Clairton’s — is on a five-year probation. A violation in any sport could deny the school championship rights and leave the program out of the next two-year scheduling cycle.
The Greyhounds hope it won’t take long for talk to shift toward a positive relationship developing between the players and new coach Dan Bosnic and a championship-caliber product.
“(Henderson) was obviously a good player, but our focus is on the guys who are here,” Bosnic said. “I think some of these guys are ready to step up and show how they’re ready to make an impact for this program. We have a lot of guys battling for playing time, and they’ve been competitive and coachable.
“Regardless of the probation, I expect the players to act like young men and compete hard, and I expect them to do it the right way probation or no probation.”
The “right way” at Monessen often leads to deep postseason runs, which did not happen last season.
The Greyhounds breezed through Section 2-A with a 9-0 record, but a trying nonsection schedule did not pay dividends come playoff time as Monessen lost 61-59 to Imani Christian in the WPIAL quarterfinals.
Monessen believes this season will have a different ending.
“We want to get that ring,” senior forward Elijahwa Payne said. “We want to be WPIAL champs and get to Hershey this year.”
Championships are always an expectation at Monessen, but Bosnic cautions this group isn’t ready yet.
“Obviously, there’s a high expectations here, and that’s something that interested me. I wanted to be part of a program that expects to win every year,” said Bosnic, a former teacher at Monessen who last coached at Connellsville from 2009-14. “Coach Salvino had a great deal of success, and, at Monessen, championships should be the goals.
“But we have a lot of work to do. We have to get better to put ourselves in the position we want to be in.”
Expect Monessen to continue to press on defense and run on offense. Some things never change.
But practices have a different feel this season.
“Last year, we scrimmaged a lot more. There’s more drills this year,” senior DiShon Howell said. “It’s different, but we’ll all come together and adjust. It’s just taking more time for some guys than others.”
Howell, Payne and senior Vaughn Taylor will be counted upon to help ease the coaching transition and help get the younger Greyhounds such as freshman point guard Devin Whitlock — already a standout on the football team — ready for the season opener Dec.7 against Greensburg Central Catholic at home.
As usual, Monessen faces a tough nonsection schedule, which includes a spot in the Mike Rettiger Tournament at Franklin Regional and against North Catholic. Monessen hopes it provides the type of competition that section play does not.
“Our kids expect to win,” Bosnic said. “What we have is an opportunity that coming up through this program has created. They’re very competitive, and, if we expand on what they already have, we could meet our expectations.”
Mike Kovak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mike at [email protected] or via Twitter @MKovak_Trib.