Quaker Valley boys basketball coach Mike Mastroianni (left)
Quaker Valley’s Mike Mastroianni and Chartiers Valley’s Tim McConnell aren’t just two of the top WPIAL boys basketball coaches but Gorman:two good friends coaching for milestone wins Friday night.
Where Mastroianni is going for No. 400 and McConnell for No. 500, their careers are closer than they first appear. They started out as section rivals, with Mastroianni in his second season at Keystone Oaks when McConnell was in his first at Chartiers Valley. Where McConnell has stayed at the same school for 22 years, Mastroianni coached at KO for three years, followed by eight at Quaker Valley and four at Bethel Park before returning to Quaker Valley, where he has spent the past eight years as athletic director and boys basketball coach.
Mastroianni has won WPIAL championships in Class AA at Quaker Valley in 1997 and in Quad A at Bethel Park in 2007. McConnell has won five WPIAL titles, two in Quad A (’01, ’04) and three in Class AAA (’97-98, 2010).
“I’ve worked at good places, and the school districts afforded me the opportunity to do it the way I wanted,” Mastroianni said. “I think Tim was in the same boat. That connects us. We did it at places where there weren’t hoop cultures. That’s always a good thing. That’s pretty neat, to be tied to him with anything.”
Both have endured heartbreak at the PIAA championships.
Mastroianni almost won a state title at Quaker Valley in 1999, but a controversial foul sent the game into overtime and the Quakers lost to Annville-Cleona, 69-57, in double overtime.
“We led by 1 and they missed shot at the buzzer but the officials called foul on a box out away from the ball on Chris Iorio,” Mastroianni said. “If it goes in, they win. But they missed it. We actually ran out on the floor. We thought we were the state champs. I still have scars from that one. That was a tough one.”
McConnell’s Char Valley teams have lost twice in the PIAA finals, to Steelton-Highspire (69-45) in 1998 and to Neumann-Goretti (65-63) in 2010, when his son T.J. was the star point guard.
That’s another difference: McConnell has coached his two sons, who have combined to lead the Colts to 178 of his 499 victories. T.J., now a fifth-year senior at Arizona, won 94 games in four seasons. His younger brother, Matty, a senior guard at Chartiers Valley has won 84 games.
“When I got into coaching 22 years, my goal was not to coach my kids,” McConnell said. “It was just to coach. T.J. was just born. I never knew how good my children would be – I didn’t know if I’d have boys. Will the drive be there? I don’t know if it makes it any more special. I just know coaching my kids, the bonding and time spent together has been something special for me. It’s been a great.”
Mastroianni’s son, Mike, is a sophomore at Montour. Not only doesn’t he get to coach his son, but Mastroianni has to try to see his games when Quaker Valley doesn’t have a scheduling conflict.
Neither had a number of career victories milestone in mind when they started coaching.
“I never really thought of that,” Mastroianni said. “When you’re a young guy, you enjoy all aspects of it, in season or out of season. If you didn’t enjoy all aspects, you couldn’t last that long, frankly. You’d start to do a disservice to your players.”
Nor does either sees retirement in their immediate coaching future.
“I plan on coaching another 20 years, if somebody would have me,” said McConnell, who counts Dan Kail at Our Lady of Loreto, Joe D’Abruzzo at Seton-La Salle, Rudy Marisa at Waynesburg University and his older brother, IUP women’s coach Tom McConnell, as his coach role models. “Coaching is something I really enjoy. In all honesty, I don’t know how good my teams will be. I never had a goal of getting to 400, 300, 200, 100. I’m still going to coach, regardless of how many wins or losses I’ve had.
“Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my time at Char Valley. It hasn’t been all roses. There’s been some tough times, and I persevered through them but the good definitely outweighed the bad. I’m thankful what basketball has brought to my life. I’m using basketball to have a job and coach. Basketball has been really good to my family.”
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