North Allegheny gets a makeover with DeGregorio back at the helm
Sunday 5 December 2021 | 11:01 am
Blue duct tape forms X’s, boxes and lines on the North Allegheny basketball court, visual guides posed by boys’ coach Dave DeGregorio to teach a new offense.
Dribbling is nothing new for DeGregorio, who has used it for years and won a WPIAL title with the offense at North Catholic. But now, in his first coaching season at North Allegheny, DeGregorio has inherited a roster unfamiliar with the program, so he and his assistant Jared Reck are back to teach the basics.
“Our system is completely different from probably 90% of what kids do,” DeGregorio said. “They come from an offense which is usually a definite motion with a lot of filtering action. Or a system where a team runs a lot of (set play). We don’t do much either. We are looking to remove you from the dribble. It’s a whole different learning curve, so it takes time.
Senior guard Matt McDonough said he’s never had a coach before using duct tape marks on the floor, but quickly saw the benefits. Some brands are for positioning. Others designate traffic lanes.
“It helps, especially the Xs,” McDonough said. “When we first learned about it, we were never in the right place. We have to be spaced out for this to work, so these X’s are holding us accountable. “
North Allegheny hired DeGregorio in May to replace Dan DeRose, who resigned after one season. It was kind of a homecoming for DeGregorio, who coached the NA men’s team from 2004 to 2016 and continues to teach at the district college.
This connection made his transition easier.
“You know where the locker room is,” DeGregorio said. “You know where the coaches room is. You’ve known AD for a long time. You’re in the gym all the time anyway. So there was a familiarity that existed there, that’s for sure.
NA went 232-76 in its 12 seasons.
After resigning from his NA coaching position in 2016, DeGregorio served as an assistant for two seasons at Hampton before becoming the coach of North Catholic in 2018, where he coached sons Isaac and Owen. In three seasons with the Trojans, his teams have gone 65-13, reached the WPIAL finals every three years, and won a Class 3A title in 2020.
Back in North Allegheny, he resumed a program still in search of his first WPIAL title. The Tigers went 16-7 last season, 8-4 in the section and reached the quarterfinals of the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs.
At the moment, that is not his goal.
“Everyone always wants to start with the same goals of winning the section, winning the WPIAL, winning the state,” DeGregorio said. “I just want the kids to show up and learn. Be a good, positive teammate and improve yourself. This is our main focus at the moment.
McDonough and senior guard Robby Jones are back starters for last year’s squad. Another senior guard, Kyrell Hutcherson, is also returning and will take on a leading role once the football season is over.
They are joined by seniors Connor Casten, Kolin Dinkins, Erik Sundgren and Ty Iwanonkiw, a 6-foot-9 sophomore transfer from Central Catholic.
The dribbling offense was made popular in Memphis by John Calipari, who played college basketball for DeGregorio’s father, Joe, in Clarion. Offense relies on the ability to drive to the rim and finish, or return the ball to the perimeter.
Other teams may have an element in their attack similar to dribbling, DeGregorio said, but North Allegheny will build on the concept.
“At first it was a little difficult,” McDonough said. “It was completely different from what we raced last year so we had to relearn everything we knew.
“We just went to the gym a bunch all summer long and worked out there. We played a lot of games, and it really helped. It’s nothing too complicated. You just have to get representatives.
DeGregorio said he keeps copies of his training schedules, some since he coached at South Allegheny almost 30 years ago. The practices he runs now are very similar to his first season at North Catholic.
“Much of the offense we can teach through shooting practice,” DeGregorio said. “We probably spend 45 minutes on different skills, so half of our practice is just that. … Jared Reck does a good 15 minutes of ball handling and offensive moves to reach the basket.
Defenses have also changed from what NA players have done before. The squad is still in the works, but DeGregorio said he sees the light bulb turning on for his players.
“At the start you just teach the basics of ‘Hey, if the ball gets here, stop here. “This is where you go and what you do,” he said. “Now we can throw a bunch of numbers and words at them, and they can get out there and do it.”
Key words: Northern Allegheny