Having covered sports in Mercer County and surrounding areas for the past 46 years, one has had the privilege of rubbing elbows with some of the finest coaches to be found anywhere. Some were excellent, some were of average talent while others were situated at the bottom end of the spectrum.
Long list: When you are talking basketball, the area has really been blessed. Gentlemen such as Eddie McCluskey, Frank Sincek, Bud Laycock, Don Bennett, John Swogger, Dave Cook, Buzz Ridl, Ron Galbreath, and the list continues, were well ahead of their time in success stories. Hats off to all of these talented men who helped put the Mercer County area on the map. They were the pioneers. They blazed the trail for others to follow.
One of these highly successful basketball coaches, who for 15 years was head coach at Sharon High School, "battled 'em all the way" year in and year out. He was Alex Chrobak.
Chrobak, at Sharon, and McCluskey, at Farrell, at one time during the good old days of Section III of the WPIAL (one of the toughest sections in the state at that time) went head-to-head, staging some of the most exciting basketball that high school sports had to offer.
Big rivals: Sharon and Farrell basketball during that era was something to behold and clashes between the two powerhouses were usually contested right down to the wire.
These encounters were played before packed houses and tickets were at a premium. Fans still talk of some of those heated engagements.
So where is Chrobak these days? He's very close to another of his favorite games, golf, working behind the counter at the Hickory VFW Golf Course in Hermitage. He remains close to the game and athletes of today and knows them all like the back of his hand. He's one who never lost interest. Born and raised in Sharon, Alex played three years of basketball under Pete Collodi at Sharon High. He played on the 1942 team that went all the way to the state final, losing to Lower Merion. A few years after graduation, Chrobak was offered a full scholarship to the University of Cincinnati.
He played independent basketball with the Donegan Raiders and Farrell Carpo Russ before getting a full scholarship once again to play at Gannon College. He started and lettered for three years and was one of the Top-10 leading scorers in the history of the school for a number of years. He was the first junior to receive the prestigious Bishop John Mark Gannon student-athlete award for basketball, golf and academic excellence. At Gannon, he also lettered three years in golf.
Following graduation from Gannon in 1953, he began his teaching and coaching career at Sharon. He coached junior high basketball for 12 years under Laycock and was elevated to assistant varsity coach under Bennett, where he served until being named head coach of the Tigers in 1967.
Outstanding record: In his 15 years as head coach, Alex posted a record of 225-125. In 1970 his team tied for the Section 3 title but dropped a one-point decision in a playoff to eventual state champ Beaver Falls. He won two Section 3 championships, in 1973 and 1975, with the 1973 team reaching the quarterfinals of the state tourney. He was named Section 3 Coach of the Year in 1973 and 1975. In 1972 the Pittsburgh Chapter of Basketball Officials named him the Outstanding Sportsman Among High School Coaches. Four of Chrobak's players competed in the Dapper Dan Roundball Classic in Pittsburgh and he coached in the Classic in 1975, leading his Pennsylvania All-Stars to victory.
An outstanding golfer, Alex competed in the Penn-Ohio League, taking medalist honors two years. He also won the Club Championship at Tam O'Shanter and a number of best ball championships at Hubbard, Geneva-on-the Lake and Yankee Run.