Park hires girls’ coach

WHEELING – It wasn’t too long ago that winning was everything for the Wheeling Park girls’ basketball team.

Ryan Young remembers it well.

Now, Young is ready to lead the Patriots as he was announced head coach Monday night during a meeting held by the Ohio County Board of Education.

”It feels good,” said Young, who replaces Dee Davis after she resigned from the position. ”I feel pretty comfortable going in knowing what’s ahead. I’m ready for the challenge.”

The 35 year-old Young served as an assistant coach under Meredith Dailer from 2009 through 2012 and was the head coach at Tridelphia middle school last season. During his four seasons as an assistant, the Patriots won a pair of OVAC titles and made three consecutive trips to the West Virginia girls’ basketball state tournament.

”I learned a lot about the job under Meredith Dailer,” Young said. ”Being mentored by her, I really feel confident moving forward.”

Young’s final season as assistant was also the last time the Patriots advance to the state tournament, where they were beat in the Class AAA semifinals by Bridgeport.

”We had two great players on that team in Emily Puskarich and Haley Robb. They were both 1,000-point scorers,” Young said. ”Hopefully we can get things going and get down state where this team should be.”

Last season, after Park lost both Puskarich and Robb to graduation and point guard Marissa Tucker to injury, the Patriots took a step back as they finished the season 9-13 and were eliminated by Morgantown in the Region One final.

”When you have a couple girls like that leave and with Marissa Tucker being hurt, they faced some challenges,” Young said. ”It did force some girls to take on more minutes then they should have, but they gained experience.”

”Marissa Tucker is the best kid I ever coached. Even though she was hurt, her leadership is going to be hard to replace.”

Young did point to a strong senior class which includes Chole Robb and Kendra Johnson, who have both played on the varsity squad since their freshman seasons, to help lead Park back to prominence.

”Looking at the group coming back, the leadership from the seniors will be there,” Young said. ”They’re such a good group of kids. We definitely have some strong sophomores and we’ll have a solid freshman class.

”Top to bottom this program is in good shape. We’re ready to take it to the next level.”

One change Young looks forward to making with the program is eliminating the gap between Park and the middle school teams.

”I want to start incorporating the middle schools into the program,” he said. ”If we start making connections with those teams, the girls who come up will feel more comfortable and already feel apart of the program. I think that’ll be the biggest difference.”

Young graduated from Wheeling Central and was part of the Maroon Knights’ 1996 championship squad. He’s also the nephew of Central football coach and athletic director Mike Young, and says he does get a little grief about coaching at a rivalry school.

”I definitely have family ties to Central, but Park is basically my home now,” Young said. ”I’m real fortunate to be part of such a big school. I don’t think too many schools in the state can compete with Park on an academic level.”

Park is currently playing in the St. Clairsville summer league as well as the Wheeling Recreational league.

Young, also a social studies and history teacher at the high school, will be the third head coach Park has had since 1992 when Davis first took over the program.

In her first 14 years as the Patriots’ coach, Davis led Wheeling Park to back-to-back state titles in 1998 and 1999. The 1998 team’s total of 101 points in the state championship game is still a West Virginia State Tournament record.

Dailer took over in 2009 before resigning after the 2012 season which led to Davis returning to the Patriots’ bench.