Beloved Jeannette football coach Joe Mucci dies of coronavirus at age 86
Tuesday, December 1, 2020 | 8:17 PM
Joseph G. Mucci was a legendary football coach in Westmoreland County.
But he was much more than that, according to his former assistant coaches, players and people in the community.
The beloved coach and administrator at Jeannette and Greensburg Central Catholic influenced a lot of people whose lives he touched.
Mucci, 86, died Monday from complications related to the coronavirus.
“There is a dark cloud hanging over Jeannette and Greensburg Central Catholic,” former Jeannette coach Art Tragesser said. “He was a wonderful coach and an even greater person. His players loved him, and he cared about them no matter who you were.”
The Hempfield resident is survived by his wife, Trudy, and five children: daughter Michelle and husband, Michael Lambie, and sons Joseph and wife, Kristen, Doug and wife, Marie, Jeff and wife, Helen, and Chris; 13 grandchildren: Michael, Megan (Sawdon) and Marshall Lambie; Matthew, Andrew, Christopher, Faith, Niko, Anna, Francesca, Enrico, Augie and Avianna; and five great-grandchildren.
“He was a great leader of his family,” son Joseph said. “He was so proud of his wife, his family, his coaches, the players and the communities that supported them. He thrived on helping people. He was a good judge of character.”
Current Jeannette coach Roy Hall said Mucci was able to attend the WPIAL championship game against Clairton on Nov. 14.
“He’ll be sadly missed,” said Hall, who buried his sister-in-law Dana Hall on Monday. “He was a great role model and a disciplinarian.
“I still do things as a coach that he taught me when I was a player and coach. We have a great fraternity of coaches at Jeannette, and it started with him.”
Greensburg Salem girls basketball coach Rick Klimchock said Mucci gave him his start.
“When the boys basketball job became open at Jeannette, Joe went to the board and told them he was hiring me as coach,” Klimchock said. “He told me that anyone could coach Doug Phillips (who went to Harvard), but he asked could I coach other guys.
“He was the person I’d go to if I had any issues or concerns. I’m going to miss him.”
Former Jeannette athletic director Anthony DeNunzio said he talked to Mucci last week, and he seemed fine. But Mucci developed the sniffles on Thanksgiving, and things got progressively worse.
“When I got a call from his son Joe on Monday, I never expected him to tell me the news about Joe,” said former Jeannette coach and athletic director Robert Murphy. “It’s very sad. He was a wonderful man, and it’s sad to see this happen. He was an amazing person. He influenced so many players’ lives.”
Jeannette is the winningest program in WPIAL football history with 766 victories, and Mucci was a big part of that success.
He coached the Jayhawks from 1968-1985 and is the second all-time leader in coaching wins, with an overall record of 150-33-3. During his 18 seasons as coach, he led the team to 11 conference titles, three undefeated seasons and three WPIAL championships in 1971, 1981 and 1983. He also coached at Greensburg Central Catholic.
John Sullivan and Dan Mahoney were athletic directors at Greensburg Central Catholic after Mucci coached there. Sullivan said Mucci always was helpful when they dealt with him. Mucci’s son Chris played football for Mahoney and Klimchock at GCC.
“He was a tremendous guy,” Sullivan said.
Mahoney added: “Westmoreland County and the state lost a great person.”
Mucci was inducted into the Jeannette Senior High School Hall of Fame, the Western Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1993, the PA Scholastic Football Coaches Hall of Fame (first Westmoreland County coach to be inducted) in 1997 and the WPIAL Hall of Fame in 2016.
Tragesser said he could tell a million stories about Mucci.
“He was one of the speakers at a coaches’ clinic, and after he got done, he invited me and Bob (Murphy) to the hospitality room,” Tragesser said. “There he stood, talking in a circle with Joe Paterno, Bud Wilkinson and Duffy Daugherty. We were speechless.”
Hall and Tragesser said Mucci always wanted to leave early for road games.
“We went to Southmoreland one year, and he told the bus driver to take the long route,” Hall said. “The driver responded, ‘I am.’”
“We were going to Penn-Trafford, and he wanted to be at the stadium by 5:30,” Tragesser said. “He ordered the bus for 4:30, and I asked him if we were going to walk.”
Mt. Lebanon football coach and former West Allegheny coach Bob Palko got his start with Mucci at Jeannette in 1984.
“I was 24 years old, and he hired me as the offensive coordinator,” Palko said. “I learned a lot from him, and I still use some of the things he taught me. One thing is before the game in the locker room, we’d turn out the lights and pray in darkness. He taught me so much.”
Former Jeannette coach and player Ray Reitz said Mucci taught him to be humble.
“He said if your head got too big, it would fall off,” Reitz said. “You didn’t realize as a player what type of man he was until years after when he’d show up at funerals or functions. He supported everyone and treated everyone the same no matter who you were. He’ll be missed around Jeannette.”
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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