Don Rebel: Upper St. Clair’s Jim Render will always be remembered as a winner
By: Don Rebel
Thursday, January 3, 2019 | 4:21 PM
A coaching icon is riding off into the sunset.
The void he leaves will be huge.
For a long time to come, Jim Render will be known as the winningest coach in WPIAL history with 406 wins, 141 losses and six ties.
Maybe for a very, very long time to come as only a couple of coaches come to mind who would have a remote chance of breaking that record.
Longevity is no longer “a thing” in high school sports.
Render did it and did it well for 49 seasons, with the last four decades spent at Upper St. Clair.
When he won, all the credit went to his kids. When he lost, it was time to run and hide.
“I probably don’t taking losing well,” Render begrudgingly admitted to me late in his career.
On a couple of occasions, I found out first hand Render and losing don’t go hand-in-hand.
As a young studio host turned sideline reporter in the 1993 WPIAL championship games, I got an interview with Jack McCurry of North Hills as the first half of the Class AAAA game ended with the Indians leading Upper St. Clair, 8-0.
The tough part was to get the interview with Render after halftime. As he emerged from the Three Rivers Stadium tunnel, our eyes locked, and I wisely read his look of “don’t you dare come over here and ask me anything.”
Wisely, I didn’t.
A decade later, same situation, this time on the sidelines of Heinz Field and the 2003 finals where Central Catholic was thumping USC after two quarters.
I had got to know Render in the 10 years since and felt a little more confident in my assignment.
Mission failed. As I approached him he tried to avoid eye contact with me. As I got close, he yelled, “What can you possibly ask me right now?” I thought about it and said “good point.”
There was something special about him though that kept you trying to get into his circle of trust, which was not easy to do.
It would have been easy to label him as a buh-humbug coach and pay him no mind.
But earning his trust was worthwhile.
While some may have seen him over the years as Walter Mathieu in “Grumpy Old Men,” those who got to know him looked at him as a competitive favorite uncle who would help you out with whatever you needed.
When I first started, all interview requests ended up on the desk of one of his assistant coaches. Near the end of his tenure, he had relaxed to the point he promised to come back on our show and sing a victory song if his Panthers won it all. Sadly, Upper St. Clair did not win and our chance to hear the coach crooning on the air did not materialize.
In a much different age from when he first started coaching, his old school ways stood the test of time as his players always played hard.
The Panthers were like a winning machine under Render. Even in years they did not win it all (five WPIAL titles and two PIAA championships), his teams competed, played hard and still won — 23 conference titles and 38 trips to the postseason.
This success came when Upper St. Clair was always one of, if not the smallest school, in Class AAAA.
For a coach who hated to lose, he will always be remembered for his wins.
Don Rebel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Don at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @TheDonRebel.
Tags: Upper St. Clair