By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
Another day, another Mercer County cage coaching casualty.
On Thursday, Tom Burns was notified his position as Kennedy Catholic High girls’ basketball coach was being opened to new applicants.
“I don’t want to say a whole lot,” Burns began. “You walk in(to a meeting), and thirty seconds later, you’re out.
“ ... ‘Off-court drama,’ that’s the reasoning,” related Burns via a Thursday afternoon telephone conversation.
“We decided to open the position. We decided to move in a different direction and open the position,” said Kennedy Catholic athletic director Jim Piccirilli.
Burns recently concluded his 6th campaign at Kennedy with a 24-3 ledger. He guided the Lady Golden Eagles to their 4th District 10 Class A title during his tenure, and this year completed a 3-peat. KC copped PIAA playoff wins over North Catholic and Port Allegany before being ousted by eventual state runner-up Vincentian Academy in the state quarterfinals.
After a season-opening setback at D-10 Class AAA titlist Franklin, Kennedy captured 15 consecutive conquests, lost to Vincentian in the postponed finale of Penn State-Beaver’s holiday tourney, then reeled off 9 more victories before being vanquished by Vincentian (68-51) for the 2nd straight season.
“I can’t understand it,” admitted Burns. “Last year there was a parent issue — a fabricated parent’s issue that, obviously, people couldn’t let go. I’d heard rumors all year long that this was going to be my last year, but didn’t put a lot of weight into them.
“It’s always been about the kids, to me,” Burns continued. “Whether or not I’m coaching them, it doesn’t matter; what matters to me is that the kids are okay.”
Burns’ daughter, Rachel, was one of this season’s seniors and she surpassed the career 1,000-point plateau, as did Akron University-bound Alex Ricketts. Earlier this week Ricketts was selected 1st Team All-State by Pennsylvania sports writers.
“I think it’s a well-deserved award for her,” Burns said regarding Ricketts. “She’s worked hard, harder than most kids in the area, to achieve that. I think her four-year tenure for me was ... in my opinion (statewide sports writers) got it right this year, making her First Team. She’s been an outstanding player for me and Kennedy Catholic High for the past four years, and she’ll go on and be a great player at Akron.”
Burns recently had been selected by Youngstown-area’s MyValleySports.com as its coach of the year, so he admitted Thursday’s revelation,
“ ... is disheartening. There’s a lot of upset parents that don’t understand. I don’t think anybody ever will.
“It’s a political move, but it’s happening everywhere,” he added.
Recently, 10-year Hickory High boys head coach Nick Cannone was notified his position was being opened after 7 straight winning seasons.
A telephone call to Father Marc Stockton, president of the Shenango Valley Catholic School System, was not returned. But Piccirilli, speaking on behalf of the school’s administration, said, “Any time (a school) opens a position, everybody’s welcome to re-apply.”
“ ... It’s been a good time, but I’m most upset for my little Hannah,” Burns said regarding his youngest daughter, a 14-year-old 8th-grader.
“ ... That’s my old school,’ Burns said regarding Kennedy Catholic, “but I guess you just roll with the times ...”