NEW CASTLE —
(Video screen appears below the story.)
The process was longer than most. The decision was tougher than usual, and the choice was a controversial one.
But in the end, New Castle High found its next girls basketball coach.
Scott Dibble was named the new leader of the Lady ’Canes yesterday at a special meeting held by the New Castle Area School Board. The vote was 7-0 in favor of hiring Dibble. Mary Ann Tofel and Anna Pascarella were absent.
Dibble takes over for Jason Rankin, who left New Castle in May to become the boys basketball coach at Sharon High. The process to fill that void was a long one.
The board was expected to announce the new coach at a meeting in June, but it held an executive session prior to the meeting and couldn’t come to a consensus on a candidate, according to New Castle superintendent George Gabriel. So, the board, and the athletic committee that was created to conduct the search decided to re-advertise the position.
An announcement again wasn’t made during last week’s regularly scheduled board meeting, and the board held the final interviews for the position yesterday. Gabriel said it was then that the 49-year-old Dibble, a finalist during the initial interviewing process, earned the job.
“They felt his second interview was much better than his first interview. That’s all I can deduct from that,” said Gabriel, an ex officio member of the athletic committee, which means he sits in on the committee’s interviews but is a non-voting member. “Probably one of the determining factors, and it was something Scott emphasized, is we’re looking for a basketball coach, but we’re also looking for someone who can mold our students into good student-athletes, meaning that they do well in school. Academics are a very important part (of coaching) — basketball is extracurricular. He emphasized that quite a bit in his interview today, and I think that’s what put him over the top.”
STRONG BUT TROUBLING PAST
Dibble boasts an impressive resume. He won two PIAA Class AA championships during a 12-year tenure at Villa Maria Academy in Erie and reached the PIAA finals four times. He compiled a record of 267-55 (an 82.9 winning percentage) and won back-to-back PIAA titles in 2009 and 2010. The Lady Victors won it a third time in 2011, but Dibble was forced to resign a few days before the state playoffs began.
According to reports, Villa Maria officials asked for Dibble’s resignation in February, 2011, after learning of a protection-from-abuse order by his wife, Meghan Dibble. No charges were filed. It was the second PFA order against Dibble. The first came in 2003 from Jacqueline Dibble, Scott Dibble’s wife at the time.
Gabriel and board president J. Allan Joseph said the issues in the past were alarming, and they addressed their concerns with Dibble.
“During the interview process, it came up,” Gabriel said. “To summarize it, we all believe in redemption, we all believe that folks make mistakes in life. He was very passionate about the fact that he had made mistakes in his past. He was very forthcoming with us.
“It’s noteworthy to say that his mistakes never spilled onto the basketball court or with any of his students or players. It was strictly a personal matter. I, for one, was very impressed in the second interview with his sincerity — that he has made mistakes in his life and that they’re over with. I’ll take him for his word. I believe him.”
Joseph also noticed conviction in Dibble’s words.
Joseph said he’s seen the severity of abuse firsthand as the co-founder of the Cray House, also known as Cray Youth and Family Services, an organization focused on helping and improving the lives of abused and neglected children in Lawrence County. Joseph, who was co-director for more than 30 years, said he believes Dibble has grown from his transgressions.
“This guy deserves a second chance,” Joseph said. “He seemed really sincere and I think he’s going to want to prove something.”
Dibble, a New York native, recognized the leap of faith New Castle took, and he said he couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.
“I was very open and honest with them,” he said. “There’s a lot more to the story, but I don’t really want to comment on that. I don’t like to dwell on the past. I made some mistakes and I’m really grateful to New Castle for giving me a chance. Now I have to be sure to make the best of it.”
The New Castle job was especially appealing to Dibble because of the tradition of sports at the school and the passion of the fans, he said. He understands the high expectations — the Lady ’Canes have won three WPIAL titles in the last six years and made the playoffs for nine straight seasons — and Dibble hopes to take the program to the next level. He admitted, however, that success is a process.
“It took some time to build that (Villa Maria program), and I think it’s going to take some time to build it at New Castle,” Dibble said. “I want these kids to experience the whole thing. I’ve been a part of championships and the atmosphere that comes with it, and it’s exciting. ... I want our kids to experience that. That’s what I enjoy the most, to see the smile on the kids’ faces. To see that makes it all worthwhile.”
Dibble, a Pittsburgh resident who works as a sales representative for a construction company, pointed to his work ethic when asked how he reached the achievements he did at Villa Maria. He didn’t specify the offensive and defensive systems he intends to utilize at New Castle, but added that comprehending different schemes has always been a strong point of his.
“I’m an Xs and Os guy,” he said. “I watch it, I understand it and I have a great feel for the game. I’m a basketball junkie.”
He’s inheriting a team that its without its top two scorers from last season, when the Lady ’Canes reached the playoffs despite losing Kaylynn Watters to a knee injury for the second straight year. Returning for New Castle are starters Kelsey Scott and Dana Perrotta. Nakea Fish, Rachael Razzano and Brandy Stewart also started at times later in the season.
Part of the reason Dibble didn’t divulge his tactics are because he’s still unsure of the strengths and weaknesses of the players.
“I don’t know what hand I’ve been dealt,” he said. “Once I get a feel for what I can do, I’ll put a game plan together.”
He said he will make decisions in regards to his coaching staff in the near future. Assistant coach Maria Joseph, another applicant for the job, recently has served as interim coach of the team.
Regardless of schemes and athletic prowess, his first concern is building this team the right way.
“They’ll have to get to know us and the work and dedication I expect from my players and staff,” he said. “Basketball is an extracurricular (activity). It’s a game, and it’s supposed to be fun, but that aside, your academics come first and foremost. You want to be a person with high character, and that’s what I’m going to expect from our kids and that’s going to be the foundation of our program.”