By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
After a decade of almost annual drama, embattled boys basketball bench boss Nick Cannone apparently is out at Hickory High.
In remarks Tuesday, Cannone confirmed to The Herald that he had been informed his position was being opened for new candidates to apply, and he could offer his resignation.
Cannone coached at Hickory for 10 years — 30 overaall at a handful of area schools — including his alma mater, Farrell, as well as West Middlesex and Wilmington. He annexed his 400th career coaching win this past season.
In February, Hickory harvested the Region 5-AAA regular-season crown and 19 wins; however the Hornets were humbled by Erie-East (46-43) in the opening round of the District 10 playoffs.
In remarks via telephone Tuesday, Cannone was candid, yet careful.
“ ... I’m not a person to burn bridges,” Cannone commenced, emphasizing, “I don’t want to create a circus here,” later, confiding, “My concern is my children.”
Cannone and his wife Christine have three sons: Anthony, currently a junior at Hickory; Nick, a freshman at Hickory, and their youngest son, Matthew, a 4th-grader in Hermitage’s Karen A. Ionta Elementary School.
Prior to assuming Hickory’s helm, Cannone coached Farrell girls (4 years), West Middlesex boys (4), Farrell boys (8), and Wilmington boys (4).
Some of his career highlights included:
ä The 1989-90 season at West Middlesex, in which he led the Big Reds to a 24-5 record and the PIAA Class AA western regional semifinals. One of his protegés is current Middlesex mentor Chad Mild.
ä The 1995-96 season at Farrell that resulted in a 24-7 ledger, WPIAL Tournament semifinals berth, and PIAA playoffs Final Four finish.
ä The 2009-10 season at Hickory, in which the Hornets lost to Erie-East (54-48 in overtime) for the District 10 Class AAA crown, but advanced to the PIAA playoffs, losing to West Allegheny (42-41) in the opening round.
ä His cumulative 167-56 ledger as Farrell boys coach included a handful of WPIAL section titles, 1 WPIAL Quad-A championship and a runner-up berth, and 5 PIAA playoff appearances, according to information compiled by Farrell High athletic director Matt Vannoy.
ä At Hickory, according to available Herald archives, he was an aggregate 145-99, with one 20-win season (’08-09) and 7 consecutive winning seasons through the recently concluded campaign.
Cannone, 60, was a football and basketball standout at Farrell. On the hardwood he played for legendary Coach Eddie McCluskey, and was part of the 1969 PIAA Quad-A championship Steelers. He matriculated at Purdue University, where he played football for the Boilermakers. He currently is in his 38th year as an elementary teacher in Farrell Area School District.
Having had little time to consider to continue coaching or not, Cannone confided to some “health issues,” reiterating,
“My main concern is my kids and to get my health back.
“I’m in a ‘Catch-22’ right now,” he admitted.
After some introspection, though, Cannone expressed some disappointment.
Cannone claimed past procedure with Hermitage School District’s board of directors included an evaluation of his performance from the just-completed season, some follow-up discussion and an opportunity for him to offer a rebuttle to the evaluation, all of which was forwarded to the board’s athletic committee. Ultimately, that committee would make its recommendation to the board.
However Cannone said his evaluation from the 2012-13 season was sent to him subsequent to the board’s Monday night meeting, at which time his evaluation already had been discussed.
“No one called me about an evaluation,” Cannone commented. “I was not there (Monday night), and never got an evaluation or chance for rebuttle. It (the evaluation) was presented to the committee and went right to the board.
“This time around (the board) already had the evaluation in hand and I was left holding the bag,” Cannone continued. “I was told, ‘We can sit down and you (can offer a) rebuttle after the vote.’
“They did everything backwards,” Cannone concluded.