Telling his players was one of the toughest things he's ever done.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Less than a month ago Ed DiGregorio was thinking of how he couldn't wait until the 2003-04 college basketball season.
His Youngstown State women's team this year was struggling, basically because of injuries and illness, and the fact that his top scorer from a year ago left for another school.
That kind of made it all the more surprising when DiGregorio announced his resignation on Monday morning to YSU athletic director Ron Strollo.
DiGregorio was the Penguins coach for 20 seasons, winning five conference championships and three times taking the Penguins to the NCAA Division I national tournament.
He and former YSU football coach Jim Tressel did more for the university over the last 20 years than any other individual in the school's history. He brought national recognition to the program and he was respected by every other coach in his profession.
Respected by peers
"I did what I felt I had to do," DiGregorio said Wednesday. "You don't always do what you feel in your heart, but you do it for the athletes, the ones who make you what you are."
"You can't believe what it's like around here, I've received so many phone calls from coaches around the country already," he added. "It feels good to know that you are respected by your peers."
DiGregorio said that he got up Monday morning and went to the university to talk to his team.
"That was one of the toughest things I've had to do in my life," he said.
Then he took his letter of resignation to Strollo.
"Then I just got out of town for the day," he added. "I first drove to Kent to visit with my old friend Paul Amodio, [the former athletic director at YSU] then I made a couple of other stops before returning home late Monday night."
DiGregorio said that he's talked with both his recruits, including Poland High's Kristy Gaudiose. "I told Kristy that I'd be around to work with her if she needed me to."
Will help in search
Strollo has asked the 76-year-old DiGregorio to be part of the university's search committee, which is currently being formed to hire a new coach. DiGregorio said that he looks forward to helping in the search.
Looking back over his 20 year tenure with the Penguins he said that two teams really stand out in his mind as the two best he's ever coached.
The first was the 1997-98 team that featured the "Fab Five" and won the Mid-Continent Conference regular season and tournament championships and went on to win a first round game in the NCAA Tournament beating Memphis State 91-80.
"That team could do things that my other teams couldn't," he said. They remind me a lot of this year's UW-Green Bay team. We had four guards who could shoot and great balance. And at that time they had a smart coach. I think I got dumb in recent years."
The other team that stood out in his mind was the 190-91 team that posted a 24-4 record and never got to the post season.
"We were an independent team at that time and Joe Malmisur, the athletic director at the time, did everything he could think of to try and get us in a tournament. That team was very good also."
DiGregorio finished his career with a 319-241 record. He won his 300th game on Feb. 10, 2001 when the Penguins beat Valparaiso 74-59.
"It's been a great career and I've had a lot of fun," he added. "I know I'm going to miss it."