Faust to return as Wash High basketball coach

March 18, 2014
Former Washington High School basketball coach Ron Faust talks with the team during a timeout. Faust is expected to be named the school’s new coach next week. - Observer-Reporter Order a Print

The last time Ron Faust coached a high school basketball team, tweeting was something officials did with their whistles, players watched game videos on VCRs instead of laptop computers and charter schools were not yet a force in the PIAA.

Faust, however, is ready for a crash course on all the changes of the last five years.

Faust, who coached Washington High School’s basketball team to two state championships and four WPIAL titles, is expected to be named the Prexies’ new head coach next week.

Wash High athletic director Joe Nicolella confirmed Tuesday that Faust will be recommended to replace Mark Gaither at a school board meeting Monday evening. Gaither resigned last week after five seasons, guiding the Prexies to the WPIAL playoffs four times.

Faust was Washington’s head coach from 1981 to 2009, when he retired and was replaced by Gaither.

Nicolella said that following Gaither’s resignation, he approached Faust to gauge his interest in returning to coaching.

“I felt the best person to replace Mark Gaither was the person Mark Gaither replaced,” Nicolella said. “So I called Ron, and we talked about logistics, staffing and the composition of the team. He had some questions, but I didn’t have to talk him into returning.”

Nicolella was a basketball coach at various levels at Wash High for 29 years, including 20 as Faust’s varsity assistant. He also succeeded Faust as the school’s athletic director. Nicolella said he had no indication that Faust had a desire to return to coaching until approaching him about replacing Gaither, who had a 76-42 record with the Prexies.

“Ron and I pretty much kept in constant contact over the years. My first two years as athletic director, I must have had a thousand questions for Ron,” he said. “We went to a lot of basketball games together this year, and I never got a feeling one way or another about Ron wanting to coach again.

“When I contacted him about the opening, it was simply to see if he would be interested.”

Faust, 62, joked about his reasons for returning to basketball after being away from the game for five years.

“There were two things. One, after several discussions with Joe, I ran out of excuses as to why I shouldn’t come back,” he said. “The second was that my wife said, ‘Please, do it. You need to get out of the house, especially after this long winter.’ My family is firmly behind me.

“I know there are some things I need to catch up on, and things I didn’t have to deal with, like players tweeting, when I last coached … but there are still two baskets and one basketball. Hopefully, old school still works.”

Faust said the five-year layoff has re-energized his enthusiasm for coaching.

“After 29 years, it got to the point where it was a grind. After five years away, I understand the saying about refreshing your batteries. It can be done,” Faust said.

When Faust agreed to return, Nicolella informed Wash High principal Frank Rotunda. They later met with the school’s activities committee, which will recommend Faust be hired Monday.

Faust had a 518-192 record that included a WPIAL record 52-game winning streak. His teams won Class AA state championships in 1984 and 1986. He is the only basketball coach in Washington County history to win multiple state titles.

During the last five years, Faust has attended only a few Wash High games each season.

“It had always been awkward for me,” Faust admitted. “People would come up to me and ask, ‘What did you think about this play or that coaching decision?’ I only went to games to see players whose parents played for me.”

Washington had a 17-7 record this season and defeated Burrell in the WPIAL playoffs before losing to Summit Academy.

Faust said his staff will be two coaches who worked with him during his first stint with the Prexies. Mark Spina was a volunteer coach and will return as an assistant, and Nicolella will serve as the volunteer coach.

Chris Dugan has been covering local sports for more than 30 years and has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1986. He was named sports editor in 2006. Before joining the O-R, he was sports editor at the Democrat-Messenger in Waynesburg. He is a former member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. If you have an idea for a story, send him an email at dugan@observer-reporter.com.

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