This past Tuesday, Shamokin Area filled the head football coaching job. The Shamokin Area School Board voted this past fall to open after a 2-8 season by former head coach, Carmen Defrancesco. Dave Zielinskie was hired for his second stint as Shamokin Area head coach. Zielinskie previously served from 1986 until the conclusion of the 1992 season.
Zielinski remained very popular long after he was fired. He won 5 games against arch-rival Mount Carmel Area including 87,88, 90,91, and 92. His 1991 team went 13-1 losing the AAA Eastern Final to Conestoga Valley coach by Jim Cantafio. Cantafio in a strange twist of coaching fate was an applicant for the Shamokin job and considered a favorite. Shamokin Area's 1987 through 1995 seasons, saw the Indians pile up 7 wins against the Red Tornadoes in 9 seasons. This had been the best run again Mount Carmel since Shamokin High merged with Coal Township in mid-1960's.
The Shamokin football job has never been easy. It has been 31 seasons since the Indians played their last game of the season, won, and were declared the champion. Since that championship season in 1975, the following coaches met their boothill: Tim Montgomery, Joe Gubernot, Bob Chesney, Jack Murdock, Dave Zielinskie (Round I), Sam Schiccatano, and Carmen Defranseco. Mathematically, if your in sixth grade, don't count on having the same coach when your a senior. The other pressure involved is having two neighboring districts win 11 state titles in the last 12 seasons.
Defrancesco who had some varing degrees of success with a couple of District AAA titles, did not deserve to get fired after this season. The schedule was brutal, there were injuries and just the lack of experience took it's toll. The players to their fortitude played hard for Carm to the very end and were not happy with Carm being dismissed as witnessed at the Hillside Coaches banquet.
Zielinskie on the other hand did not deserve to get fired after the 1992 season. Participation was on the high the end and the team was highly competitive in AAA. The public excuse was that their were too many penalties on the team. In the end, he just wasn't a fit for that board at the time and moved on.
One thing that has remain a constant in past 30-plus seasons is that the board micromananges the football program. Current board member ron McElwee was quoted in a recent newspaper article:
Back in 1992, McElwee supported opening up Zielinskie's job.
Director Robert Getchey who was a driving force in bringing in Defrancesco seven years ago had this to say. In regard to instructing athletic director Paul Stehman to start advertising for new football coaches, Getchey replied, “Let’s do it right and take our time before we hire a new staff. We have to bring the right people in for the job. When are we going to learn and do it right?”
Is it all about winning? Is it about beating Mount Carmel? Here is a letter to the editor to the News-Item that director Sol Bidding submitted this past November 18 in regard to coaching in the Shamokin Area District. This letter was to all coaches. The letter was titled, "Where's the Beef?" Bidding later commented on the not hiring of Cantafio taken from the News-Item: One of the main concerns of the school was cost. According to school board and
athletic committee member Sol Bidding, the school board did not want to create
another “$55,000 a year position.” Bidding also addressed the topic of Jim
Cantafio, one of the seven coaching candidates and one with previous head
coaching experience at Conestoga Valley, Wyoming Valley West and Wilson (West
Lawn). Bidding stated that money would not be a reason for him to reject the
position. However, it was still felt that Zielinskie was the top choice.
Less than two months later, the board finally found their beef. However, it was only hamburger. There was also some strange happenings when the final vote for new coach was taken. Why was the althletic director asked to leave the meeting? Were there two votes taken, one private and one for the public? Some of the questions this board may have to face is what is their motivation? Is it the student athlete? Is it about wins and loses? Dave Zielinskie was and is a good football coach. Carmen Defrancesco is a good football coach. This is one thing the board cannot change.
Can Zielinskie successfully return to Shamokin?