Local Legends on the Bench

* Jim Garland also coached at South Park with no record available and at Bethel Park for 1 season plus and was 16-26, so he had more than 300 victories.

Extra, extra, read all about them

Steve Cutchall -- His boys teams claimed back-to-back District 10 titles in 2010-11, and the 2011 squad reached the Elite 8 in the state tournament. The 2010 district championship was the first for Rocky Grove since Vince Curran's team won it in 1949.

Vince Curran -- In addition to the district title in 1949, Curran also had three league title winners. He coached four sports at the Grove.

Speaking of longevity back in the day:

Byron Johnston --  coached five sports at Cranberry, including bowling. He was big on the U.S. Marines physical fitness program and he had his boys working out in the wee hours, resulting in multiple western Pa. and national championships. He made 943 coaching "starts" at Cranberry.

Howard Smith -- Special mention to this guy. While Byron Johnston is listed as starting his coaching career at Cranberry in 1941 (and he was the baseball coach in the spring of 1942), it was Howard Smith who was coaching the basketball team at this time. According to the Berry Bush (the school's yearbook), Smith was at the helm through the 1941 season with four straight league titles and a pair of District 10 crowns. The Berries won a fifth straight league championship in 1942 under "Albert" Johnston before John Samonsky took over from 1943-46. Johnston "returned" from the Armed forces in 1947 and mentored the Berries to 23 wins. Incidentally, center Merle Sheffer scored a school record 385 points that season.

Hud Wells -- began his coaching career at Oil City in 1930 with football. He coached nine seasons in football. and also had a hand in coaching volleyball and baseball. All told, 488 wins. His volleyball teams in the late 1930s and early 1940s reached the state finals several times. Was once in spring training with the Detroit Tigers and met Ty Cobb.

Other coaches who were around a long time in the 1950s through the 1980s include Dick Russell at both Franklin and Oil City, Bob Irons at Franklin, Crunk Porter at Oil City and Chuck Shankel, Chuck Marin and Had Ward at Rocky Grove.  Crunk was the tennis coach at Oil City for years, amassing hundreds of victories.

Bob Lynch -- began his career as the jayvee coach at Oil City. He won 129 games as the varsity coach at Oil City and another 70 at Franklin. Lynch later coached at Thiel and Pitt-Titusville, claiming some 300 wins.

Dean Henderson -- started as the football coach at Venango. He said the basketball coach at the time (Keith Lane) wouldn't allow his players to play football, so when Lane left, Henderson asked for the basketball job and was very successful, winning two District 10 titles. Even though his heart was still with football, the Oil City  High and Slippery Rock grad  left VC for Cambridge Springs, still hoping for that big football job. But he ended up staying in Crawford County, also coaching the Saegertown boys and the Meadville girls in hoops. As of 2006, he had more than 400 coaching victories.

Father John Weibel -- He gave up cigarettes for Tootsy Roll pops a la Kojak on TV, but was also noted for his coaching successes, especially early on at VC, where his teams won several District 10 crowns before claiming "the big one" in 1980. He started as the golf coach in 1972, and was at the school for 21 years (English teacher)  before being transferred to Coudersport. Father Weibel died unexpectedly in 2005.

Roy Sanner -- A motorcycle accident claimed the life of Sanner in  2009 at the age of 53. He was serving as girls basketball coach and athletic director at the Grove at the time of his death. The former Cranberry High scoring machine accumulated most of his coaching wins as the boys coach at Rocky Grove.

Todd Wetjen -- The Rocky Grove graduate began his coaching career at Oil City and was 51-25 in three years  before moving on to Franklin where he was even more successful at 156-54 with district titles in 2004 and 2006 and five of his six league crowns. He had some modest success early on at his alma mater, where he coached seven years through 2019.

Bill Mook -- It was Mook who built the vaunted Franklin girls program from the ground up after serving as jayvee coach under Rick Fletcher iat Oil City in the early 1980s. He spent 20 years as FHS girls basketball coach and/or athletic director, his teams winning the program's first three district championships. The Lady Knights also won 12 league titles and reached the western Pennsylvania finals twice. Mook also coached golf and track at Franklin. He later served as athletic director at Rocky Grove. Mook died at age 62 in 2016. He was married to former Oil City basketball and volleyball star Peggy Gregory.

Rick Fletcher -- When girls basketball as we know it today began in the early 1970s, Oil City was "the" team in Venango County, winning the District 10 title in 1975 under coach Dixie Cox. Fletcher succeeded her and coached eight years from 1977-84, compiling the 120-59 record with three Section 2 titles. He later became the school's athletic director, serving for a number of years before retiring in 2016.

Bill Hager -- The king of 'em all, y'all. Twenty-two conference championships at Jamestown, N.Y., Maplewood and Franklin. 10 straight TCAC crowns with a 78-2 record; only "on the court" loss was to Meadville. Seven-time conference Coach of the Year. Took teams to the state Final Four for times, and had seven teams in the Elite Eight and 11 in the Sweet 16 in addition to winning the state title in 2001. Teams were a combined 672-273. Also coached the Franklin girls to a District 10 title. Pa. Big School Coach of the Year. He's a member of the West Allegheny High School Hall of Fame (in addition to Franklin) and was drafted by the Pirates in 1967. Also offered a baseball scholarship to Iowa. Interestingly, Hager was turned down for the Corry job just before he was hired at Franklin. Hager already had a 307-156 record before even starting at Franklin.