New Norwin coach sees untapped potential in boys basketball program

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Monday, August 9, 2021 | 7:44 PM


From afar, Lance Maha always watched the Norwin boys basketball program with curious eyes.

He admired the potential he saw in the team and the district and wondered what it would be like to coach at the Class 6A school in North Huntingdon, which isn’t far from his home.

“It’s a growing community, the infrastructure is there with the school system, and the youth program is in place,” Maha said. “It’s a sleeping giant, to a degree.”

Maha, the longtime coach at West Mifflin, will now get to see what Norwin is like for himself.

He was hired Monday night as the Knights’ head boys basketball coach, replacing Buddy Valinsky, who resigned after two seasons.

“At West Mifflin, we had years when we were down but we were still a playoff team,” said Maha, 54. “I think if we build this program, it can be a playoff team from year to year. The potential is there. The numbers are there.”

Norwin is seeking its first playoff appearance since 2015-16.

Maha said Norwin was the only other boys job he entertained in recent years.

“Lance had a great track record,” Norwin athletic director Mike Burrell said. “He will bring a hard-working attitude and dedication to the kids.”

Maha, who lives in West Mifflin, has been coaching since he was 21. He started at Quigley Catholic before taking college assistant jobs at Pitt-Johnstown and Robert Morris and was the head coach at Penn State New Kensington for one year before resigning to take over the West Mifflin boys, a position he held for 20 years.

After a short stint at Propel Braddock Hills, he returned to West Mifflin last year to coach the girls team.

“I’ve been on the carousel,” said Maha, a social studies teacher at West Mifflin, where he is an alum. “The only thing I didn’t do (in coaching) was move around the country. I got married and started having kids, so we ended up staying here.”

West Mifflin’s boys made the WPIAL playoffs 17 times and won 289 games with Maha on the sidelines. He won six section titles and guided the 2001-02 team to the PIAA finals.

His career record with boys teams is 318-264. He was 7-3 last season with the girls.

Coaching counterparts of Maha say he is known for his defense and fast-paced teams.

Maha isn’t altogether in agreement.

“I always adjusted to what I had,” he said. “If we had a smaller team of guards, we would shoot more 3s. Some teams were among the top defensive teams (in the WPIAL). I am not married to a style.”

His 2015-16 team, for instance, averaged 74.6 points, one of the top averages in the WPIAL. But his 2010-11 Titans were 22-4 and averaged 58.2.

“I like to hone in on defense,” he said. “Not offense. Take the first good shot you get, if it takes one pass, or seven or eight. I never believed in holding the ball.”

Once he gets his assistants in place, Maha is looking forward to getting to know his players as they look toward fall league play.

“I am really excited for this unique opportunity,” Maha said. “I went after this job two years ago and didn’t get it. But hey, I wasn’t my wife’s first choice either, and I have been married 29 years.”

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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