Bishop Carroll girls program needs permanent leader

After playing just twice in the past 16 days, the Bishop Carroll Catholic girls basketball team begins a stretch of three games in five days tonight when it travels to Richland.

A game against the Lady Rams should be a welcome distraction in a season that’s been full of unwelcome ones.

The Lady Huskies got off to a 3-0 start that included impressive wins at Cambria Heights and against Bishop Guilfoyle, but even during that start, cracks were starting to form.

Area coaching legend Bob Gongloff, who led Bishop Carroll to back-to-back Class 1A state championships in 2002-2003, entered the year with nearly 450 career victories and had just taken BC to the PIAA Class 1A semifinals the last two seasons.

Carroll also won the District 6 Class 1A title in 2017, but all that winning didn’t produce a ton of smiles and pats on the back.

Gongloff has always been hard-nosed and tends to concentrate on minor flaws in lopsided victories rather than outwardly celebrate everything that went right. It has been a coaching strategy that’s paid off in wins and getting the most athletically out of his players for more than two decades.

But it may also be what leads to the end of his career.

Gongloff was put on a leave of absence by the school prior to Bishop Carroll’s game at Penn Cambria on Dec. 19 for what was described to the Mirror by parents of players as mental abuse of certain players.

The Lady Huskies lost that night — and again two days later when Gongloff’s daughter Amy Oravec served as interim head coach for one game before resigning the next day. Bishop Carroll followed that by splitting a pair of games at the State College Kiwanis Holiday Tournament with Pat Long serving as the coach.

The school has remained mum on the specifics of what Gongloff is accused of, and no mention of any players involved in the accusations has been made public. However, three sophomores who played in the majority of Carroll’s first four games have not played or appeared in the scorebook in the last three games and another did not appear in either game of the State College tournament.

Coming into the season, Bishop Carroll was one of the favorites to not only win the District 6 Class 1A championship but also make a deep run in the state playoffs.

The Lady Huskies lost all-everything star Alyssa Martinazzi from last year’s team but returned plenty of talented players, who under Gongloff’s system would likely have improved throughout the season. Defending District 6 Class 1A champion Juniata Valley is now playing in Class 2A.

Now the team has had to deal with at least three different head coaches in less than a month (the Mirror has not been able to confirm who was the head coach against Penn Cambria). Though all the coaches were part of the program at the start of the season, the confusion in a loss against Westmont Hilltop was evident.

Some of the girls on the team wept when they were informed Gongloff was being removed from his position. Others likely felt a sense of relief. Either way, a divide among teammates was evident, according to one of the fathers the Mirror spoke with.

Hopefully, the new year and long stretch without playing, has given the school a chance to talk with the players and find a coaching situation that works for everyone. Games against Richland and Johnstown this week appear to be mismatches that should get the Lady Huskies back on track on the court.

More importantly, the school needs to make a decision on a permanent coach going forward, because forcing the players to play under a constant flow of interim coaches is not fair to anyone involved in a program with such a great history.

Michael Boytim can be reached at mboytim@altoonamirror.com or 946-7521

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