HOLLIDAYSBURG - Hollidaysburg Area High School boys basketball coach Mick Pentoney has never been much of a fan of Penn State's Ed DeChellis. Pentoney's always rooted for West Virginia.
But anyone might want to think twice before putting Pentoney and the Nittany Lions' coach in the same room together anytime soon ... unless they have a really perverse sense of humor.
Always outspoken - ask him when you have some free time how he feels when he sees Darrell Jones officiating games at Altoona High - Pentoney's ire has been raised to such a level that he brought DeChellis up after Hollidaysburg's win Friday over rival Altoona, and he didn't back off those comments following the Golden Tigers' big 53-49 victory against State College Tuesday at the HAHS gymnasium.
"He can't win the NCAA, so he's bringing kids in to win the PIAA,'' Pentoney said. "I hope only the worst.''
What has the Golden Tigers' coach so up in arms is that he suspects Penn State and DeChellis may have motivated the decision of the family of top-100 recruit Taran Buie's family to move to State College from Albany over the summer after Buie verbally committed to the Nittany Lions. Pentoney thinks it too convenient to believe otherwise.
"I just recognized what's going on. It's powers in America that's job is to justify things. I'm just a high school basketball coach that says two plus two equals four. It doesn't equal five,'' Pentoney said. "I just look at the timeline. He picks Penn State, and they move to State College. If it looks like a fish and smells like a fish, I think it's a fish. Somebody's trying to tell me it's chicken.
"It's not healthy for scholastic sports.''
Pentoney wants it to be clear that he doesn't think anyone involved with the State College program - "Drew Frank is a class guy, and they run a class program,'' Pentoney said - was involved, nor did he aim any hard feelings at Buie's family. His targets were the Penn State program and the governing bodies of college and Pennsylvania scholastic sports - the NCAA and the PIAA - which he thinks don't take enough of a hand in closing what he felt was a loophole the colleges have found in order to keep closer tabs on players they are recruiting.
Except for those coming from Pentoney, though, there haven't been any other noticeable comments making similar accusations. DeChellis has never been involved in any situation like this - or any that would even be considered to be bending or taking advantage of the rules or even unsportsmanlike - so far as this reporter can recall.
Buie's mother, Denise Murphy, didn't make the trip to the Blair County seat to watch the game and, therefore, wasn't available to answer Pentoney's charges. However, State College coach Drew Frank said he and Murphy have talked about the motivation for the move and that basketball had little if any to do with it.
"Denise Murphy has said that she is doing what is best for her family, particularly her school-aged children,'' Frank related. "That this is a much more wholesome environment than where they came from.''
Little Lions assistant coach Willie Morse, who played Division I ball at St. Bonaventure and Colgate, also pointed out that NCAA rules limit the amount of contact colleges can have with high school prospects, even those that have signed like Buie did during the early signing period. That means, once classes were in session, Buie wouldn't be allowed to work out with Nittany Lion players or on Penn State premises, even with his half-brother, Talor Battle, being part of the Nittany Lion team.
Pentoney sat with Nittany Lion assistant coach Kurt Kanaskie and in front of Penn State athletic director Tim Curley at Monday's State College/Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic game. Both Kanaskie and Curley have sons playing for the Little Lions.
Pentoney said he didn't bring up the matter to them directly.
In retrospect, though, Buie moving to State College might have been a blessing for the Tigers. His presence made Pentoney's team take its game to another level on Tuesday.
"That kid actually made us play the best we've played all year long, because our kids want the challenge,'' Pentoney said. "He's made us better ... but I'm dead set against this.''
Before last night, State College was the perceived front-runner to win the District 6 Class AAAA championship, and perhaps Pentoney's passion on this is driven by the fact that this Golden Tiger team was the favorite before the Buie transfer. Perhaps Pentoney just wanted to fire up his team for the first of three probable meetings with the Little Lions, or maybe he just sees the potential for impropriety that he wants closed.
He said he knows his conclusions aren't going to be universally accepted, but that doesn't bother him.
"Until it happens to you, don't judge me, because it's happening to me,'' Pentoney said. "And it's happening more often.''
Cmor can be reached at 946-7440 or firstname.lastname@example.org.