New coach A.J. Corso’s love of basketball was sparked at Serra Catholic

Friday, June 26, 2020 | 1:33 PM

Growing up in Ohio, A.J. Corso admits he didn’t exactly have a love for basketball.

Corso thrived on the football field, playing at Struthers High School before continuing his career at Thiel College.

It wasn’t until he received an opportunity to serve as a basketball assistant coach at Serra Catholic under Vince Gibbons in 2013 that Corso gained a larger appreciation for the sport.

“The reason I fell in love with it is because you can have smart basketball players that aren’t necessarily talented and still play as five guys and win games,” Corso said. “Coach Gibbons gave me the opportunity to coach at Serra and that’s when I fell in love with the game.”

Serra Catholic’s administration announced Thursday that Corso was hired as boys basketball coach. It’s Corso’s first head coaching job.

He replaces Justin Walther, who resigned in May after four seasons. Along with assisting Gibbons, Corso spent time as a ninth-grade coach on Walther’s staff.

Now, it’s Corso’s time to shine.

“I’m extremely grateful that (athletic director) Bill Cleary has given me the opportunity to do this,” said Corso, who also has experience as a junior high basketball coach at Upper St. Clair. “I’m ready to go.”

Cleary agreed that Corso, a physics teacher at Serra, is ready.

“He has seen a lot of things in his day, and he has worked very hard for the day he could become a head coach,” Cleary said. “I feel like the time is right for him to take over the program and we like the idea that he is in the building, too, as a teacher.”

Corso inherits a team that went 11-12 overall and 9-3 in Section 2-2A last season. A year after advancing to the WPIAL Class 2A championship game and the state playoffs, the Eagles were downed in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

Corso must replace three senior starters in Jayden Bristol, Alex Glumac and Josiah Pais, but the cupboard is not bare.

A number of underclassmen received significant playing time during the winter, including Elijah Ward and Joey DeMoss, a pair of sophomores-to-be. Jayden Mertz and Mark Thomas, both of whom will be entering their senior years, are among the experienced upperclassmen Corso will likely rely on.

“I think being at Serra is really going to help me gain the trust of these players,” Corso said. “They’ll see me every day as a teacher, and then I’ll be able to switch that hat and be their coach after school.”

Corso said serving on the coaching staffs of Gibbons and Walther allowed him the opportunity to learn different ways to approach the game.

Because of that, he said he won’t have an exact way in which he wants to play basketball. He’ll base his coaching style off what each of his players can bring to the table.

“I’m going to tailor it to what my players can do,” Corso said. “I have to be flexible with that. I will use their strengths, and we’re going to play with their strengths.

“There is going to be a learning curve and I’m fully prepared for that.”

Corso has watched as Serra Catholic has become one of the premier programs in Class 2A. He doesn’t want that to change. He wants to continue the tradition that Walther built over the last few years and, perhaps, even win a championship or two.

“I was going over what I plan on saying once I get this parent meeting going and I’m going to tell our families, ‘No vacations until March,’” Corso said. “I fully expect to be in the playoffs, competing for that WPIAL championship every year.”


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