Hermitage School District board of directors, on Monday, named Chris Mele as varsity boys basketball head coach.
Mele replaces Bill Dzuricsko, who resigned in February. The Hornets ended this past season 10-13 overall, 6-8 in District 10 Region 5A.
Former Farrell High boys Coach Roland Shannonhouse (13 seasons, 244-94, 2 District 10 AAA championships) also was considered for the position.
The board voted, 6-3, in favor of Mele, with Dr. Morren Greenburg, Keith Fustos and Robert Mancino casting dissenting votes.
Mele spent the past 4 seasons as Kennedy Catholic High’s girls head coach. Mele guided the Lady Golden Eagles to 4 consecutive D-10 Class 1A titles and 4 appearances in the PIAA playoffs Sweet 16. KC concluded this past campaign 24-2. Mele motivated his teams to an aggregate 92-12 record during the past 4 years
Hickory hardwood hopes have significant upside. Returning rotation regulars include current juniors Brandon Beader, Antonio Shannonhouse-Blackwell and Jon Walsh, as well as current freshman Donald Whitehead.
The 6-3 Beader is on the brink of scoring 1,000 career points, and Walsh, a point guard, and Shannonhouse-Blackwell scored in double digits 8 and 7 times, respectively, with both boasting 19-point season highs.
When Shannonhouse-Blackwell missed the season’s final 9 games owing to injury, Whitehead assumed a starting berth. Whitehead ultimately scored in double figures 10 times, including 22- and 20-point performances against Slippery Rock.
Zac Duncan is another current junior, while Michael Filardi, a sophomore, scored in double figures in 4 of the season’s final 5 games. They were part of the varsity rotation, and they were two of the JV team’s standouts, as was current freshman, athletic 6-foot-3 Jaylen Jarvie, who began gaining varsity minutes late in the year.
Additionally, Hickory’s 8th-grade team ended 19-1 this past season, with one of its top players being Peyton Mele.
The Hickory program’s last winning season occurred in 2013-14 when those Hornets ended 16-6 overall and 11-5 in Region 5A, but suffered a District 10 tournament quarterfinal-round setback to Strong Vincent (50-40).
Mele was hired during the board’s regular meeting. But fireworks over the hiring started before the meeting even began on Monday night.
Board members met in an executive session before the regular meeting at Artman Elementary School. As a couple members of the public waited outside of the board room for the regular meeting to begin, shouting could be heard among board members.
During the regular meeting, Hermitage Superintendent Dr. Daniel Bell said the executive session was about hiring the boys basketball coach. And he added there was a “spirited’’ discussion.
Before the vote, board member Robert Mancino said during the meeting he had gotten a lot of comments and questions from the public about the timing of hiring a new coach.
Mancino, a member of the board’s athletic committee, said he asked that the process of hiring a coach be delayed until after the boys basketball team’s season was over.
“There was no intent to deceive anybody here,’’ Mancino said. “I felt that there might be a reluctance for the team’s current (assistant) coaches to apply while they were still playing. ‘’
After the meeting, Mancino said in an interview there were 14 applicants for the post.
“They got their guy in,’’ Mancino said. “We didn’t hire the best,’’ Mancino said.
Standing nearby, Belle said the board’s solicitor said board members shouldn’t discuss matters regarding employees.
“You’re going to get sued,’’ Bell shouted to Mancino.
“I’m just telling what really happened in there,’’ Mancino said of the board’s decision. “You just hired another parent - that’s what really happened.’’
Mancino said Mele had a son who would be entering Hickory High School in the upcoming year.
Also, Mancino said Mele had no experience as a head coach of a boys basketball team. Further, parents and others conspired to get him the post.
“This is a sad day for Hickory,’’ Mancino said. After a couple salty words aimed at Bell, Mancino said, “It’s time we hired the best.’’