MERCER COUNTY Kennedy Catholic opens new era
The Golden Eagles meet Farrell tonight under new coach Tim Loomis.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
HERMITAGE, Pa. -- The Kennedy Catholic High boys basketball team has put itself in position to become the first Pennsylvania school to win five straight state titles.
But the Golden Eagles will attempt to do so without their long-time coach, Joe Votino, who was fired on May 18 and later convicted on charges of corrupting the morals of a minor.
The controversy created a tumultuous off-season at Kennedy Catholic, which defeated Fairfield on March 23 at Hersheypark Arena for its fourth straight Class A title.
To replace Votino, Kennedy Catholic hired Tim Loomis, a coach with collegiate experience and the desire to help the Golden Eagles overcome the adversity.
At Farrell: Tonight the Eagles open their season against Farrell in the Farrell Tipoff Tournament.
"We had to completely start over," Loomis said. "We had to move ahead. We couldn't think of what was happening in the past. Everybody joined together in the community, especially the players, and moved ahead immediately. Things are very normal now."
Loomis, 48, is a Reynolds High graduate and Greenville resident who has been out of coaching since 1996, serving as vice president of a private company.
Before that, however, Loomis spent six years as head coach of Florida Atlantic University and four years before that as an assistant at Penn State.
His first coaching opportunity came at California University (Pa.) where he served as an assistant for two years before becoming head coach in 1980.
"My background as a coach fit [Kennedy Catholic] well," Loomis said. "I've been through tough situations building programs."
Loomis knew Votino through Votino's early days as a coach, coming up through the ranks in western Pennsylvania. Still, Loomis doesn't prefer to dwell on what has happened to Votino.
"I don't deal with that at all," Loomis said. "It's not in my day-to-day thinking. I came in here as someone outside the whole events that had happened and wanted to move ahead. I've respected what he had done with the program from a basketball end."
Six state titles: Kennedy Catholic won all six of its state titles under Votino. For the Golden Eagles to reach No. 7, they'll have to get production from their experienced players -- seniors Dan McElhinny and Nolan Reimold, who scored 12 and 10 points, respectively, in last season's state title game.
McElhinny is a 6-foot point guard who has signed early to play at Eastern Michigan of the Mid-American Conference. Reimold, whose brother John plays at Bowling Green, is a 6-4 guard/forward.
"We don't have much more experience after that," said Loomis, who will focus the Golden Eagles' attention on defense. "But the kids are developing, and by January we hope to have a very good team."
Also expected to contribute this season are seniors Phil Doyle (6-4) and Cory Wittway (5-10) and juniors Ramone Truxon (6-4) and Craig Wellman (6-4). Junior Dan Harris (6-2), who is recovering from a broken ankle, is also in the mix.
Does Kennedy Catholic have what it takes to win its fifth straight title?
"If we're healthy and we can develop, we can be in a situation where we can contend for a state championship at our level," Loomis said. "You have to be good, and you have to be lucky. That's a great challenge."