Longtime area coach Don Andres shares his keys to success

BEAVER TOWNSHIP — With 44 years of coaching experience, longtime area high school basketball coach Don Andres has an unparalleled appreciation for the game that he so loves.

Knowledgeable? No question.

Caring? Undeniably.

A throwback? Absolutely, and most proud of it.

Quotable? Every time he opens his mouth and says something.

With 361 career wins during head coaching stints at his alma mater, Niles McKinley — he is a 1963 graduate — Warren JFK, Reynolds (PA) High School and two stints with the Howland Tigers, the FBI’s loss was education and scholastic basketball’s gain.

“I played for Joseph Basset at Niles then Tom Morgan at Malone University so they are two head coaches that were an influence on me, men that I have tried to emulate. I have culled information from them and used both their techniques and ideas with my programs,” Andres told the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly meeting at Avion Banquet Center.

Still one of the program’s top scorers all-time during his days with the Red Dragons, Andres remains tied for 41st on the Pioneers’ all-time scoring list with 1,187 career points.

For a while, he thought football might be his ticket to college.

“I was a little upset with myself because I quit football my sophomore year at Niles and really should have stuck it out,” Andres added. “I had a scholarship to JFK, but when I went back to Niles I didn’t have any confidence.”

He still appreciates the fact that Warren JFK gave him the opportunity to teach and coach — he also served as the Eagles’ head golf coach, guiding the team to a state title in 1974, a state runner-up finish in 1973 and a fourth-place finish in 1975 – when he graduated from Malone University.

“I was hired at JFK then became the head basketball coach,” he said.

“I was going to go to the FBI but I really loved education and coaching so I stuck with it. Looking back, I might have stayed at JFK forever. I was blessed with many great players and assistant coaches over the years, my pride and joy, however, is that my coaching tree has produced eight assistants who have gone on to noted head coaching careers.”

Those assistants include Dennis Jasinski (Warren JFK), Nick Bellino (Cardinal Mooney), son-in-law Doug Foster (Champion and Niles), Ron Price (Niles), Bruce Johnson (Chagrin Falls, Mathews), Dan Campana (Mathews), Dennis Rossi (Warren JFK) and Mike Salapata, who played for Andres at Niles, coached for him at both Niles and Reynolds and currently serves as head basketball coach at a high school in Baltimore, Md.

He stands firm in his convictions about three things that have changed the basketball landscape over the years and not for the better in his eyes.

“Coaching is about 15-20 percent while talent is 80-85 percent,” Andres noted. “A coach usually keeps games close but players win those close contests. Also, you can’t please everyone. No one is perfect, even Jesus was 10 and 2.

“For me, the biggest changes in coaching over the years were the advent of the three-point shot, bullying, and increased parental involvement. Those just became too much for me. I never agreed with the shot from behind the arc because kids get the ball right now, all the way down to the fifth and sixth grades, and immediately want to shoot triples. You must start inside with lay-ups. The ‘three’ has changed the game in a negative way. I am a slow-down coach and still do not believe in the 24-second clock or anything like that.

“Bullying is terrible anywhere while parental involvement became just too much for me. It is the frustrated jocks. I would rather be coaching a team of orphans. Psychologically, everyone has problems but it’s how you handle those problems that is important. The biggest thing is to just manage them one at a time.”

Appreciated at every stop during his storied coaching career, Andres has been inducted into no less than seven Hall of Fames.

Pete Mollica, late sportswriter for The Vindicator, captured Andres’ persona best when the coach first contemplated retirement in 2009.

In his article, Mollica wrote “nobody had more passion or worked harder as a basketball coach. That is also what made it so difficult for the veteran coach to announce his retirement.”

Next Monday, Carmen Nocera, newly appointed head baseball coach at Penn State-Shenango, will serve as guest speaker.


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