Major Corley, championship coach of Monessen girls basketball team, dies of coronavirus

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Monday, July 13, 2020 | 5:40 PM


To many who didn’t know him, Major Corley was an imposing figure.

He was 6-foot-8 and walked with a slow, mission-oriented pace. Not to mention his nickname was “Tuffy.”

But to those who knew him, Tuffy was nothing like his gruff exterior suggested. He was a calm, compassionate and mellow man.

The longtime, legendary coach of the Monessen girls basketball team died early Monday after complications from covid-19, according to his sister, Mary Margaret Brown.

“He was the 6-foot-8, gentle giant that graced the streets of Monessen for 73 years,” Brown said. “He was a role model in the community, and he touched the hearts and minds of all. He helped to mentally, morally and physically cultivate generations of young people.”

Corley retired from coaching early in 2018 after his second stint heading up the girls program.

In 25 years as a coach, he went 460-189, including a state championship in 2004, three WPIAL titles (1995, 2004, ’06) and 13 section championships.

While he fondly remembered all of them, he made no secret which one was his favorite.

“The first one is always the best one,” he said in March. “That first WPIAL title in 1995, it was (Gina Naccarato’s) junior year. I don’t think anyone expected us to win it.”

Naccarato joined her former coach on the bench as an assistant when the Greyhounds made their run to the PIAA championship, led by Charel Allen.

Naccarato said Corley’s death is something that will leave a hole in the Monessen community for a long time.

“This was a very big loss to the Monessen community,” Naccarato said. “I have always said that Major was a gentle giant and the classiest person I have ever been around.

“I was fortunate enough to play for him and coach under him. I learned so much from him in both aspects, but I learned the most when I coached under him. He taught me how to win and lose with class and how to run a program the right way. Everything he taught me has carried over in my career as a teacher, coach, administrator and athletic director. I will miss him. He truly was one of a kind.”

While Corley was a great athlete and coached so many of Monessen’s best in his career, he was never one to focus on himself or his own accolades.

“What a lot of people may not realize was his life-long commitment to kids. He was one of the founding coaches of the Monessen Midget Basketball League 50 years ago. I also served with him for many years on the Monessen Civic Center Recreation Authority,”said Jeff Oliver, former Valley Independent sports editor. “When he took the Monessen girls basketball job as the coach, he only did so because nobody wanted it.

“You could look long and hard and never find a more classy person, a caring person, than Major Corley. I am just crushed over this. We lost a real icon of the community, a person I don’t think anyone has ever said a bad word about.”

Many who knew Corley noted his pride in the community of Monessen.

“His dedication, expertise and true love of the game and for our kids was unparalleled,” school board director Roberta Bergstedt said. “He is indeed another Greyhound legend and will be sorely missed.”

Added longtime friend and colleague Marlon Wheeler: “It’s a tough, tough, tough day. Everyone knows Monessen is a sports town. It was always football, then it became basketball. Tuffy brought that excitement into girls basketball.”

Wheeler said the biggest thing he will remember of his longtime friend is his calm demeanor.

“Obviously, I went to his games, but working in the school, I went to his practices,” Wheeler said. “That’s where you get to see the true side of a coach. He never was a screamer. If a kid made a mistake, he’d walk up to them and put his arm around them and explain what the problem was. Now, if the kid made the same mistake, you might hear him raise his voice a little. But he never screamed at anyone.”

It’s ironic he had the name “Tuffy” because Wheeler said he never saw Corley mad.

“I’ve known him my whole life,” Wheeler said. “Through all the pickup basketball games and playing softball together for so many years, I’ve never seen him even close to being mad enough to be in a fight with anyone.”

Corley coached 13 1,000-point scorers with Naccarato and Allen scoring more than 3,000 career points.

After retiring the first time after the 2010 season, he served as an assistant for Greyhounds boys basketball coach Joe Salvino before returning to the girls’ sideline in 2016.

He was elected as a member of the Mid Mon Valley All Sports Hall of Fame for the Class of 2020, which became the Class of 2021 because of the covid-19 pandemic.

Corley graduated from Monessen in 1965. He graduated from Pittsburgh Technical Institute and retired from a career with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.

He was involved with the Mon Valley Branch of the NAACP, where he earned a Recognition Award in 1996, an Appreciation Award in 2004, a Humanitarian Award in 2008 and a Certificate of Appreciation in 2017. Corley was inducted into the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Hall of Fame in 2017.

“This is going to be tough for me, for the community for a real long time,” Wheeler said. “There weren’t too many like Tuffy.”

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