BROCKWAY — It’s often said once you catch the coaching “bug,” it is hard to let it go.
That has certainly been the case for Dick Esposito, the current head coach of the Brockway girls basketball team. Esposito first started coaching as a teenager and is now in his seventh different decade of shaping and molding the minds and lives of athletes in the Tri-County Area.
He first foray into coaching came in the Brockway Little League in the late 1960s and is said to be the youngest manager in the league’s history when he managed the team his two brothers played on. He coached at different age groups in the Brockway Little League from the late 60s into the 1970s and again in the 1990s and 2000s when his children played.
At the high school level, Esposito started and coached the very first team in the history of the DuBois Central Catholic girls softball program in the late 1970’s.
Although he coached Little League all those years, and helped jump-start softball at DCC, Esposito said his first love when it comes to coaching has always been basketball. He has invested 34 years, although not consecutively, into coaching sport at all levels.
He first coached basketball as a junior in high school at DCC when he guided a pair of 5th and 6th grade teams (Dickies Dunkers and Bruno’s Bombers) from St. Tobias Church in Brockway that played in various tournaments in the DuBois and Brockway areas.
During high school days at DCC, Esposito played basketball for the Cardinals.
“Sports were very limited during my high school days,” he said. “I played lots of summer baseball, as most high schools did not have a program.”
During his senior year, the Cardinals reached the Western Finals of the PCIAA, the Catholic School League, before losing. Back then, all Catholic schools played separate from the PIAA.
Esposito’s first head coaching job at the high school level came in 1980 when was hired to lead the DCC boys basketball program. He guided the Cardinals from 1980-86 and won three Moshannon Valley League championships while compiling a record of 87-73.
He moved on from DCC to become the head coach of the men’s basketball program at Penn State DuBois, a position he held from 1986-91. During his time at the college, he also served as head golf coach (1989-91) and athletic director (1988-90) on top of his basketball duties.
During his time at PSU-DuBois, Esposito coached the likes of Scott Morrison, Sam Kirk and Rick Clark, the current coach of the Brockway boys basketball program. Clark scored 1,000 points in two seasons playing for Esposito and the Lions.
Esposito retired from coaching after the ’91 season at Penn State DuBois, but that lasted for all of five years as he returned to the bench in 1996 as the head coach for the Brockway girls program. He led the Lady Rovers from 1996-2002, a time period that saw him coach the top two scores in program history — Mary Barrow and Miranda Rhed. Barrow still holds the school record for scoring by a boy or girl with 1,678 points.
“I thought I was done coaching after 2002,” said Esposito. “But, I was asked by the late Topper Martz to coach JV and junior high in 2011.”
Two years later (2013-14), he was back on the bench as the head coach of the Lady Rover varsity program, a position he still currently holds. His coaching record between his two stints with the Lady Rovers is currently 106-198.
Esposito took the time to answer a few other questions about himself as part of our Beyond the Whistle series spotlighting area high school coaches in all sports:
The reason I enjoy coaching is ... yes, winning is a great outcome, but watching the growth and maturity of young kids growing into adults is amazing. Watching the young ladies and men grow as a team and trying their best is very rewarding to watch every year.
Having my former players coming back to say hello or just staying in touch makes it so rewarding being a coach. I also enjoy the interactions with other coaches, referees and yes, the media, establishing close friendships with many.
I stay in touch with many throughout the entire year and not just during the season. As a former teacher, I have and will always emphasize academics and their importance and take pride in seeing 98% of my teams usually on Honors.
The hardest thing about coaching is ... is really two-fold. Trying to find coaches, especially in the younger grades, is very difficult because of work schedules and family life and the balancing of both. Coaching is very time-consuming, and I understand the difficulties of others to break away from both their family and work.
To have a respectable and competitive program means working with all grades almost every month of the year. I am blessed to have Steve Buttery in my program, as he can usually find the time to help out through all grade levels as possible.
Secondly, with schools offering so many sports, academic advancement programs and outside activities, the day of the one sport athlete is becoming obsolete and watching these young adults trying to balance their daily schedules, with some working also, makes it very difficult for some of them to find time to participate in sports.
Academics are much more important and trying to get them to participate has become more difficult as each year passes. Numbers are falling everywhere in sports participation, and I truly admire the stamina and sacrifices these young adults are making to better themselves.
The biggest reason I continue to coach is ... because of the love and enjoyment I have for the game, but also watching these young adults grow and make new friendships, and the happiness, smiles and rewards they experience as part of being in a program and being successful.
They grow to learn that wins and losses are not only a part of the game, but also in lessons in their future lives as they mature. Just watching each team grow and get better as each season progresses, the smiles after a big win and their growth as a young adult is very rewarding to experience.
Also to have a very supporting athletic director and administration makes coaching so much easier and keeps me coming back yearly.
My real job off the court is ... Since I am retired, I fortunately have a very flexible schedule and have the time to coach throughout the entire year. I realize I have it easier than most coaches being retired.
The person(s) who influenced me to get into coaching ... As far as having a mentor or someone that influenced me as a coach, I have many.
In baseball, I always had the support of both my mom and dad to coach. My dad was a great baseball player, and my mom a very steady influencer, In basketball, during my early years, I would intensely watch the coaching of Mr. John McNulty, Mr. Ed Green, Mr. Steve Landini and Mr. Alex Madalis (who helped me tremendously) as I started my coaching career.
In the past few years, I have had great influence by Coach Rick Clark, Coach Kurt Becker and my assistant Steve Buttery, all whom know the game very well and continue to study the game.
My favorite team/season or game that stands out me is ... I was proud to be an assistant coach at DCC during the 1975-76 season and taking the team to Hershey and placing third in the state. Back then the PIAA took the top four teams to Hershey rather than the top two as they do now.
I believe a coach’s first win in any sport is always very special. In very different ways, all of the teams I have coached have been very special to me and just seeing their reactions after a big win and the smiles are satisfying enough. All of the players I have coached and their teams will always remain special to me.
Has coaching during the COVID-19 pandemic changed your coaching style ... COVID has shown us all how dangerous and infectious a virus can become. Staying safe has become a top priority for us. Starting up, closing down and then a re-start can be taxing on coaches, athletes, athletic directors and administrators, but I consider myself, my team and staff very blest to try to begin again.
Not knowing what the future holds, the team has been so cooperative in any changes and are making sure we follow all protocols established by our school and state. I have and will continuously express patience to my team. Not knowing what each day or practice will bring and the many game and practice changes, patience is needed by us all.
My team has been very flexible and handled it well, and I am so proud of them as they learn another life’s lesson on patience. We do consider it a blessing to get a chance to play and have to look at it as a blessing.
My favorite thing outside of coaching is ... I enjoy golfing when I get the opportunity and maybe someday I might get good at it. I thoroughly enjoy golfing with my son when we get the chance. Being retired, I am also responsible with family properties and spend 15-20 hours a week on a mower to keep up the properties.
Is there anything else about yourself people might find interesting ... I am a pancreatic cancer survivor for five years now (coached through his treatments) and know I have received the blessings to continue to coach. I am also especially proud of my two children with my daughter, Sarah, just graduating from the FBI Academy as an agent, and my son, Nicholas, earning his chemistry degree from PSU. Lastly, I have a terrible “sweet tooth” for chocolate.