Ambridge basketball coach Mark Jula retires week before season opener

Monday, December 2, 2019 | 11:00 PM

Ambridge boys basketball coach Mark Jula started to question his passion for the job, so he retired a week before the season opener.

“I’ve coached primarily on passion more than anything,” said Jula, who was about to start his eighth season at his alma mater. “When that passion starts to dwindle, then it’s probably time to move on.”

Jula, 66, resigned Saturday after 38 seasons overall. He called it retirement.

The 1971 Ambridge graduate coached basketball at five WPIAL schools along with two others in Pennsylvania. He led Butler to a WPIAL title in 1991 and a runner-up finish in 1993. He later took North Allegheny to the WPIAL finals twice, in 1995 and ’99.

Jula also coached at Moon and Center.

“It’s just the time,” said Jula, who has a career record of 561-373. “I didn’t have it in me anymore to do what I need to do to go in every day, write those practice schedules up and get after it.”

Ambridge went 94-70 under Jula and reached the playoffs six times in seven years.

Assistant Eric Astorini is coaching the team for now. The Bridgers start their season Friday at Canon-McMillan.

Jula said his passion to coach hasn’t been the same since son Brett Jula was killed in a car accident in February 2016.

“It’s been a challenge pretty much every day to do the job the way I want to do it,” Jula said. “I get up every day, have a cup of coffee and go to the cemetery. That’s not your normal start to the day for most coaches.”

Jula said there wasn’t anything specific in the past week that convinced him to resign. Instead, he said he talked with his wife and decided it was time.

“It just got to the point where, if you’re just going to go through the motions, then you can’t do it,” Jula said. “I’m not a guy who does anything that way. If your passion isn’t in it and your heart’s not there, you owe it to the players to move on.”

Jula in the past has joked that he doesn’t hunt, fish, golf or go for walks — he just coaches basketball.

“Now, I might hunt, fish, walk and golf all in one day,” Jula said, “to make up for lost time.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at or via Twitter .


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