By Tom Robinson, NEPABasketball.com
PLAINS TOWNSHIP – The future of Wilkes-Barre Area Wolfpack basketball began to take shape Wednesday night at a Wilkes-Barre Area School District board meeting at the Solomon-Plains Junior High School.
Pat Toole, for the boys, and Ross Macciocco, for the girls, were named as the first head coaches of the combined basketball teams, which will take the court for the first time in the winter of 2019-20.
Before the decision on winter head coaching positions, the board voted to approve a motion to intend to award bids for the construction of a new high school in Plains Township. The plans for a 400,000-square foot building for a consolidated high school – possibly in time to replace Coughlin, GAR and Meyers for 2021-22 – includes a gymnasium with a similar layout to Scranton Prep’s Xavier Center.
Toole served as head coach at Meyers since 2004. His teams won District 2 titles in 2012, 2014 and 2016 and finished second two other times. The 2014 team went to the state semifinals.
The Mohawks won seven Wyoming Valley Conference division titles under Toole and put together a 64-game WVC winning streak 2009-15.
Macciocco took the Dunmore girls to the 1994 state championship game, with his daughter, current Wilkes University coach Tara Macciocco, leading the way. He also coached at Scranton Prep and has well more than 600 career wins coaching girls.
Toole was in attendance at the meeting.
“The first thing I have to do is look at our numbers and see what we have,” Toole said. “I was fortunate enough to be the last Meyers coach and I’m honored now to be the first coach of the Wilkes-Barre Wolfpack.”
Toole said he expects to be at each school meeting with potential players Thursday or Friday.
Also attending Wednesday’s board meeting was Chris Parker, who was a finalist for both head coaching positions.
A multi-step interview process narrowed the field of coaches down to a total of six who received a final interview for at least one of the two positions.
Toole’s hiring was unanimous. Board member Joe Caffrey voted no to the appointment of Macciocco.
The school board decided to name a head coach and an associate head coach for each basketball team from the pool of finalists. Head coaches are then expected to recommend the remainder of their staffs, pending approval from the district.
Owen Wignot, a Wilkes University assistant, was named boys associate head coach. Meyers coach Mary Mushock was named girls associate head coach.
Toole is recently retired after 35½ years as a domestic relations hearings officer in Wilkes-Barre. He said a lot of time will be needed to formulate plans for how to keep as many Wilkes-Barre Area students as possible active in basketball.
“I know what’s ahead of us,” Toole said. “One of the things I told the board is that I believe one of my strengths is to take individuals mold them into a team.
“Now, we’ll be molding three schools into one team.”
There will also be logistical issues in coordinating junior high programs and moving high school athletes between buildings until the likely opening of the proposed new school.
Dr. Brian Costello, Wilkes-Barre Area superintendent, confirmed the plans for the gym in that school. There will also be an auxiliary gym that can be connected or separated from the gym that will be used for games.
“The way we have it is there are moveable bleachers so that when you get into that gymnasium, you’ll have a true stadium feel, an arena feel,” Costello said. “On each sideline and the home basket side, there are bleachers, but we’ll have the ability to have bleachers surrounding the entire basketball court, including both ends.”
A three-lane track, above the bleachers surrounding the gym, can also include additional portable seating, when needed. That will allow for pushing the seating above 1,800.
The 2018-19 school year is the final one of separate athletic competition for the district’s three high schools – Coughlin, GAR and Meyers. A decision was made to combine the athletic programs prior to the actual consolidation of the schools, for cost-cutting, competitiveness and other reasons.
The final year of separate basketball teams saw the GAR boys reach a playoff for the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 2 title.
GAR, which finished 15-9, and Meyers, which went 7-16, each had their program histories come to an end with losses in the quarterfinal of the District 2 Class 4A playoffs.
Coughlin did not qualify for the playoffs and finished 5-16.
Meyers had the only winning record among the three girls programs.
Under Mushock, the Lady Mohawks were 12-11, losing in the District 2 Class 3A quarterfinals.
GAR was 8-14 and missed the playoffs. Coughlin was winless in 22 games and participated in the Class 5A playoffs where all District 2 teams were guaranteed a berth.
The associate head coach idea is a new one that Toole said he had been told about in the interview process.
“I don’t know exactly what an associate head coach is,” he said. “I coached against Owen. I followed his (playing) career when he was at Siena. I know he’s been with Wilkes the last two years.
“I look forward to sitting down with Owen and to see if he’ll accept it because he applied for the head job. … I’m sure his experience playing at Division I and coaching at Division III could certainly bring a lot to our program.”
Parker has been a head girls coach at GAR for four seasons, Holy Redeemer for six and Hanover Area for the past two. He also earlier had been a boys assistant at Bishop Hoban.