Former Norwin star Jenna Lusby hired as Jeannette girls basketball coach

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Monday, June 17, 2024 | 8:38 PM


When her playing career ended, Jenna Lusby often played pickup to satisfy her basketball needs.

That is what hoop junkies and gym rats do. (Lusby is fine with those labels because they suit her.)

One of her stops was LA Fitness in Greensburg.

Not only did she meet her future husband, Arnold Lusby, amidst the squeaking of high-tops on the court there, but she also found love in a different way through a moment of clarity.

“I realized I needed more,” said the former Jenna Cole, who starred at Norwin before a successful college career at Pitt-Greensburg and La Roche. “I am never satisfied (in basketball). Coaching was the next challenge for me.”

Lusby’s first venture as a head coach began Monday night when Jeannette hired her to lead the Lady Jayhawks.

Lusby, 26, replaces Anna Leonard, who resigned after two seasons. Leonard recently was named head coach at McKeesport.

“Drew (Polczynski) reached out to me about the opening,” Lusby said. “I was coaching AAU with him (for Erudite in North Huntingdon), and I had contemplated (coaching at the high school level). The opportunity came up, and here we are.”

Before coaching AAU at the eighth grade level, Lusby served as an assistant at La Roche.

Lusby, a double-double producing forward who won two WPIAL championships at Norwin and an Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference title at La Roche, hopes to increase participation at Jeannette. The program struggled to maintain a five-player rotation last season, even finishing a game with three girls after two fouled out.

Six was a high-water mark on the roster.

Still, Leonard guided the team to an 8-10 mark and a WPIAL Class A playoff berth.

“I didn’t know much about the situation (at Jeannette),” Lusby said. “I know the program has dealt with adversity, but I am ready for that. I dealt with adversity my whole career. I had three head coaches (in college) in three years.”

Lusby and Jeannette athletic director Adrian Batts have talked about her attending sign-up meetings for other girls sports to attract more basketball players.

“I was very impressed with her playing career,” Batts said. “She comes from a winning culture in high school and college. She’s someone that our girls can trust, learn and gain a lot of knowledge from. We are extremely excited to have Jenna.”

A 20-point scorer at La Roche and a former AMCC Player of the Year, Lusby had 1,651 career points. She helped the Red Hawks to an NCAA Division III Tournament berth.

Lusby left Pitt-Greensburg after one season because of a coaching change.

Teaching basketball skills should come easy to her. It’s her approach to the mental side of the game that could set her apart.

Her day job as an adult probation officer in Westmoreland County will help her with the human nature part of coaching, she said.

“I deal with a lot of quick decision making and deescalation of situations,” Lusby said. “I feel like I have a high basketball IQ and good understanding of the game.”

Like most young coaches, Lusby hopes to apply things she has learned from people that coached her on her path to the sidelines.

“I learned something different from all of them,” she said. “Some coaches get up and yell, others never leave their chair. Some scream at you, and others have a gentle approach.”

Lusby and her husband, who competed in track and field at Seton Hill as a sprinter, live in Greensburg. They married last October.

“I am going to tell the girls I want us to win games and play hard, but I want us to have fun doing it,” Jenna Lusby said. “I have seen a lot in my career. I have lost by 40 and won by 40. We’ll learn from our experiences together.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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