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After spending the last seven years as an assistant coach for the Upper St. Clair boys basketball team, Bryan Bennett was hired last week to lead the South Fayette girls program.

Bennett, 41, takes over for Matt Bacco, who resigned in February after 10 seasons at the helm. The South Fayette School Board approved Bennett’s hiring during its Tuesday meeting.

“There’s a rich tradition of excellence in all the areas of athletics, academics and arts at South Fayette.

“When the job came open, it was a no-brainer for me. It’s the right place and the right time for me to pursue a head-coaching gig again,” Bennett said.

Bennett, who is a math teacher at Upper St. Clair, said he’s been holding workouts with his new players.

“I’m extremely excited, especially when I met the kids,” Bennett said. “It’s been an absolute joy over the past two weeks. Stepping into the gym with them every day is definitely what makes it worth it.”

South Fayette is Bennett’s second head coaching job. Before his seven-year stint at Upper St. Clair, during which the Panthers were 65-73 with two WPIAL playoff appearances, Bennett was the head coach of Seton-La Salle’s girls team for three years.

The Rebels went 57-25 and made it to two WPIAL title games under Bennett. After going 14-12 and losing in the first round of the WPIAL tournament in 2007-08, Bennett, a 1995 graduate of Freedom High School, led Seton-La Salle to records of 21-6 and 22-7 in the next two seasons. The Rebels lost to Sto-Rox in the 2008-09 title game and Jeannette in the 2009-10 championship. In 2009-10, Seton-La Salle advanced to the quarterfinals of the PIAA tournament.

Bennett takes over the Lions’ program after one of its worst seasons in recent history, though that’s mostly because of the level of success Bacco’s teams had over his decade as coach.

The Lions finished the 2017-18 season 12-9 overall with a 7-3 record in Section 1 of Class 5A. In Bacco’s 10 years, during which the school jumped from Class 2A to 5A, the Lions were 173-78, a .690 winning percentage, and an 83-29 section record.

Bennett said bouncing between the boys and the girls game isn’t a difficult transition for him. After coaching one season for the Hopewell boys, Bennett went to Seton-La Salle to coach girls, Upper St. Clair to coach boys and now to South Fayette to lead a girls program.

“I talked to the kids today after our workout about this,” he said. “One of the things I told them is that I’m going to treat them like anyone I coach. I’m going to coach you as an athlete. There isn’t a difference for me. I’m going to push them like every other athlete.”

Bennett said the coaching staff, which consists of Garrett Del Re, Alex Gensler and Olet Stasko, will wait to evaluate the players before implementing a system.

“We’re not going to force our kids to fit out system,” he said, “Some coaches have systems that they force, but that’s not what’s best for the kids. We want to put them in the best possible position for success. I guarantee anyone who sees us play will see a group of kids who play hard and play the right way.”

Stasko is a returning assistant, Del Re played at Upper St. Clair and was taught by Bennett, and Gensler is a former USC player who also played at Duquesne and professionally in Hungary.

“My coaching staff and I we’re trying to push the kids to get better every day,” he said. “We’re gradually getting to know each other. As long as we improve every day and put forth our best effort, we’ll have success.”

Staff Writer

Jacob Calvin Meyer works as a staff writer for both The Almanac and the Observer-Reporter, where he covers news and sports. Jacob, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, graduated from Waynesburg University with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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