When Mark Gaither resigned as the Wash High boys basketball coach, the job immediately became the most desirable in the WPIAL. With a talented roster returning next season and a legacy of great athletes, the school has built a great reputation for athletics in Western Pennsylvania.
When Wash High athletic director Joe Nicolella was faced with finding Gaither’s replacement, he turned to a friend and former boss to take over. Ron Faust, the legendary coach who led the Prexies on a record-breaking winning streak, will return to pacing the court as Wash High’s leader this winter.
Nicolella decided to avoid looking into assistant coaches around the area and hired a defensive-minded coach who will immediately have Wash High competing for a section title in 2014-15. While the Prexies have been extremely talented offensively the last few years, they lacked the defense that is needed to compete with the top teams in Class AA.
Faust immediately changes that. With Nate Swart returning, as well as DeQuay Isbell, Wash High has the most talent returning in the section. Swart’s game poses matchup problems for opponents and Isbell has steadily gotten better. He finished as one of the leading scorers among area post players and Faust will help to develop his game on both ends of the floor.
With other players like Jon Spina, Matt Popeck and Jordan West ready to assume larger roles, it will be exciting to watch the Prexies play next season. I was skeptical once Gaither left that they would be able to find a coach that could help push the program forward. Gaither had the ability to relate to players and was a steady leader during the program’s recent playoff runs.
I’m not going to declare Wash High as the favorite to reach Palumbo, especially with Lincoln Park moving to AA and Seton-LaSalle’s ability to “find players,” but the Prexies will be vastly improved in 2014-15. They will miss the defensive play and leadership of Quorteze Levy, but Spina will help assume that role and with Popeck receiving more playing time at shooting guard; this team will score a lot of points.
It will be an adjustment for the players to go from a player-friendly coach like Gaither to Faust, who will bring discipline to the table and will demand his team embrace his pressure-heavy defensive system. Like all high school coaches, he will have to find a balance between discipline and relating to his players, but with Faust returning, look for the Prexies to possibly claim the section title.