Former Franklin Regional boys basketball coach opens up about opioid abuse

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Tuesday, June 29, 2021 | 5:10 PM


Steve Scorpion admits he almost died.

“I stopped breathing three times and coded twice,” the former Franklin Regional boys basketball coach and standout player said. “I thought it was all over for me. When I woke up, I knew God saved me because he had a greater purpose for me. He put me through that because I needed to see for myself what I was doing wrong.”

Scorpion, 38, said he was rushed to the hospital April 29 after a serious episode that was caused by the overuse of opioids. He was treated, and a few hours later checked into a rehabilitation unit to address his addiction to painkillers, which was now clearly conceded and brought to light.

He was hit with a hard dose of reality and began to count his blessings. His fiancée, Marissa, and their two young sons, Steve Jr. and Caden, were suddenly under the brightest of spotlights. The fear of losing them made Scorpion tremble, made him face his fears.

“Picturing my little boys visiting my gravesite really hit me hard,” he said. “That’s an awful thought. I love my kids. I want to teach them how to play basketball and baseball. … Now I know I will have that chance. I wouldn’t have before.”

Word of his incident spread to friends and family, co-workers and colleagues. He received a swell of support, with fellow coaches reaching out to see how he was doing and asking what they could do to help.

Franklin Regional, put in a tough spot with one of its most accomplished coaches, opened Scorpion’s position. He said the district told him he could reapply and that he might be considered for another coaching job down the road.

He did not resign. He chose not to reapply. For now.

Franklin Regional officials had no comment on the situation.

All of the sudden, though, basketball didn’t seem as important to Scorpion. The man known for making his team tougher by loading schedules with games against better competition, the likes of which his Panthers often had no business playing, faced his biggest challenge yet.

If he does coach again, he’ll do so after he is clean and refocused.

“I needed to get help with the disease, with the addiction,” Scorpion said. “If I didn’t get treated, I was going to die. I always told myself, I can quit when I want. That is not true. Everybody has to hit rock bottom to see they are killing themselves. God gave me a two-handed shove over a cliff. Then he grabbed me by my pinky toe and gave me another chance to make this right.”

He began taking painkillers as a high school senior when he said he was a “young, dumb kid experimenting.” The dependency started about two years later.

Scorpion, 60 days clean on June 28, said his priorities have changed, along with his outlook on life. He said he is taking a one-day-at-a-time approach on a path to reform and wellness.

“I always love a challenge,” he said. “But there is no final horn for this challenge. I am going to battle this for the rest of my life. I get that. I want to become the best father, husband, friend, coach, I can be. I am still going to be around (Franklin Regional sports). These kids are my family, too. Most of them have been very supportive and I appreciate that.

“This has been a rough time but it also is the best thing that has ever happened to me. It’s a positive thing. If I can help someone else who is going through this, that is great. There are so many people out there going through the exact same thing you are.”

Scorpion was 53-34 in his four seasons with the Panthers. He led the team to the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs all four years and the PIAA postseason twice. The Panthers reached the WPIAL championship in 2017-18.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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