New coach brings passion for basketball to struggling Jeannette girls program

Monday, August 8, 2022 | 9:33 PM

Adopted at age 11 and growing up in a family of eight siblings, Anna Leonard learned to make her own way through life.

Basketball has been her vehicle. It is her passion. After all, her nickname is “Hoopz.”

“I moved out after high school, and I have been running the world ever since,” Leonard said. “Basketball has been a big part of who I am and what I do. You hear ‘ball is life,’ all the time. In my situation, it really is. It has been my sanctuary through a lot of turmoil I went through.”

A Mohawk graduate who has been involved in coaching at the recreation and high school levels, Leonard is set to take on her first stint as a head coach. She was hired Monday night to lead the downtrodden Jeannette girls basketball team.

Bill Flow resigned after one season as coach and is now the athletic director at Yough.

Jeannette went 0-19 in each of the last two seasons with a light roster. The Jayhawks have lost 41 straight games. They have eight wins across the last four years, but a move to Class A could help next season.

Leonard, who coaches with the Slaam and Western PA Bruins AAU programs, serves on the White Oak Athletic Association Board and works from home as an information technology training consultant.

The divorced mother of two has been living in East McKeesport but is considering moving to Jeannette with her daughters, Venicia (16) and Adriana (13).

“Coaching has been an enlightening experience,” Anna Leonard said. “I am excited to see what we can do here at Jeannette. I feel like I can relate to these girls and this situation. They need someone who is motivational and resilient, and I am both of those things.”

Leonard was an assistant last season at West Mifflin. Before that, she coached the East Allegheny middle school girls for two years.

She lived in Jeannette for the better part of three years, and her daughters made friends there, so there is some familiarity in place already.

“The timing was never right before,” she said. “This time, it was. The stars aligned.”

Jeannette was glad to land Leonard, the first female coach in the program since Janine Vertacnik left in 2018. The Jayhawks won a WPIAL title in 2010.

“We liked that she’s big in player development,” Jeannette athletic director and boys basketball coach Adrian Batts said. “She wants to build from our elementary to varsity girls. Her coaching with one of the premier AAU programs like the Bruins speaks for itself. We are extremely excited to have Anna take over the program.”

Leonard grew up playing guard, but when she shot up six inches after middle school, she was suddenly a 5-foot-10 forward.

She hopes Jeannette sees similar growth — and in less time.

“I am going to be focused on fundamentals,” she said. “There can be big learning by using little, tiny pieces. I love seeing progress in players. The rougher around the edges they are, the better. You can’t change as a player if you’re not being challenged.”

Leonard’s father, Lauren Allison, died last fall. He inspires her every day.

“I can only aspire to be as respected as he was,” she said. “He saved my life.”

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

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