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KC’s Magestro shares keys to career success

Kennedy Catholic head coach praises discipline, accountability

BEAVER TOWNSHIP — As an integral part of three Pennsylvania state high school basketball championships at Kennedy Catholic High School in Sharon, head girls’ basketball coach Justin Magestro said if you expect to enjoy success at any level then it comes down to two basic things, discipline and accountability.

Those two important principles were engrained in him early on. First, as a fourth-grade student and member of Sacred Heart Elementary School’s basketball team under coach Jeff Sirianni.

Then, as a key contributor and member of successful programs at then Sharon Kennedy Christian under legendary coach Eddie McCluskey and at Walsh University, when famed college coach Bob Huggins was at the helm.

“While playing for coach McCluskey, he taught us many things but first and foremost that there were no excuses,” Magestro told the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s meeting at Avion Banquet Center. “You were held accountable in whatever you did. Secondly, he taught us to be disciplined because in life there are no shortcuts.

“Coach was someone who saw everything, was so fine-tuned that his I’s were always dotted and Ts always crossed. He was meticulous when it came to perfection on both sides of the ball, whether it was practice, games, or whatever.”

Currently in his sixth season with the Golden Eagles, Magestro is 242-111 overall as a head coach with one girl’s state championship.

He has also served as an assistant coach at Brookfield, head girl’s coach at Reynolds High for six seasons, head boys coach at Sharon High (three seasons) and prior to becoming the school’s girls head mentor he served as an assistant boys coach at KCHS, where he was part of two other state titles.

He said Huggins was a mirror image of McCluskey.

“Coach Huggins’ father and coach McCluskey were best friends so he kind of got that coaching style,” added Magestro. “He learned about discipline, mental toughness and both he and coach McCluskey had that. When you did something wrong, they broke you down but when you did things right they built you up. That’s kind of my coaching style and philosophy, too. Even in grade school, coach Sirianni was out of the same mold so basically from fourth grade through college I had the same type of coaches and that is where I developed a lot of my values.”

The key to his current run at his alma mater, however, has been his willingness to adapt.

“In addition to being detail-oriented and disciplined, each year I have been able to change or adapt to the kids that I have had in my program,” Magestro stated. “That is something a lot of coaches struggle with. They try to put the same round peg in a square hole but you get different types of skill sets and must adjust, sometimes needing to change both your offense and defense. They cannot be the same every year unless you have the same type of kids. I have been fortunate enough to be able to do that and the kids have responded.”

Magestro says he has been fortunate to coach all four of his children during their hardwood careers.

Oldest son, Drew, a senior at Pitt-Johnstown, won two state championships while a member of the Golden Eagles’ squad and was the PSAC ‘Freshman of the Year’ at UPJ while brother Giovanni was a state titlist at Kennedy Catholic as well.

Daughter Malia helped the team advance to the Elite-8 while she was a Golden Eagle and has been a key contributor to Youngstown State’s recent string of success, as they are currently in a three-way tie for the Horizon League’s top spot.

Daughter Bella, now a freshman at Kennedy Catholic, is a spot starter on this year’s Kennedy Catholic squad.

“As a coach, and I coached all four of my children, it has been very easy because I treat them like any other player,” he noted. “I told them if you want me to continue being your coach, then you have to be the best or one of the two best players on the team. As a parent coaching your son or daughter, you are always under a microscope so my whole mindset has been if you are not the best or second-best player on the team, then I’m not coaching you.

“That made it a lot easier for all of us. Every one of them has been in a gym into the way hours of the night. We are more late-night people than get up at 5 a.m. and get to the gym-type people. Each has been in the gymnasium almost every night during their high school careers, either for a game or after practice and sometimes until 10 or 11 p.m. at night.

“The only way you can be the best is you have to outwork everyone and that is something both my father and mother taught me. They said there’s only one road to success and that was to outwork the next person. It is that mindset I have carried over to my own children.”

Next Monday, Pittsburgh Pirates radio broadcaster Greg Brown will serve as the guest speaker.

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