North Allegheny takes on new look with DeGregorio back at the helm

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Sunday, December 5, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Blue tape forms Xs, boxes and lines on North Allegheny’s basketball court, visual guides put down by boys coach Dave DeGregorio to teach a new offense.

The dribble-drive isn’t new to DeGregorio, who has used it for years and won a WPIAL title with the offense at North Catholic. But now in his first season back coaching at North Allegheny, DeGregorio inherited a roster unfamiliar with the scheme, so he and assistant Jared Reck are back teaching the basics.

“Our system is completely different than probably 90% of what kids are doing,” DeGregorio said. “They come from an offense that’s usually a motion set with a lot of screening action. Or a system where a team runs a lot of (set plays). We don’t do much of either. We’re looking to take you off the dribble. It’s a completely different learning curve, so it takes time.”

Senior guard Matt McDonough said he’d never before had a coach use tape marks on the floor, but quickly understood the benefits. Some marks are for positioning. Others designate driving lanes.

“It does help, especially the Xs,” McDonough said. “When we were first learning it, we were never in the right spots. We need to be spaced out for it to work, so these Xs hold us accountable.”

North Allegheny hired DeGregorio in May to replace Dan DeRose, who resigned after one season. It was a homecoming of sorts for DeGregorio, who coached NA’s boys team from 2004-16 and continues to teach in the district’s middle school.

That connection made his transition simpler.

“You know where the locker room is,” DeGregorio said. “You know where the coaches’ room is. You’ve known the AD for a long time. You’re in the gym all the time anyway. So there was a familiarity that existed there, for sure.”

NA went 232-76 in his 12 seasons.

After resigning as NA’s coach in 2016, DeGregorio served two seasons as an assistant at Hampton before becoming North Catholic’s coach in 2018, where he coached sons Isaac and Owen. In three seasons with the Trojans, his teams went 65-13, reached the WPIAL finals all three years and won a Class 3A title in 2020.

Now back at North Allegheny, he takes over a program still searching for its first WPIAL title. The Tigers went 16-7 last season, 8-4 in section and reached the quarterfinals of the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs.

Right now, that’s not his focus.

“Everybody always wants to start out with the same goals of win the section, win the WPIAL, win the state,” DeGregorio said. “I just want to kids to show up and learn. Be a good, positive teammate and get better. That’s our main focus right now.”

McDonough and senior guard Robby Jones are returning starters from last year’s team. Another senior guard, Kyrell Hutcherson, also returns and will handle a leading role once he transitions from football season.

They’re joined by seniors Connor Casten, Kolin Dinkins, Erik Sundgren and 6-foot-9 sophomore Ty Iwanonkiw, a transfer from Central Catholic.

The dribble-drive offense was made popular at Memphis by John Calipari, who played college basketball for DeGregorio’s father Joe at Clarion. The offense relies on the ability to drive to the rim and finish, or pass the ball back to the perimeter.

Other teams may have an element in their offense similar to dribble-drive, DeGregorio said, but North Allegheny will rely on the concept.

“At first it was a little difficult,” McDonough said. “It was completely different from what we ran last year, so we had to relearn everything we knew.

“We just got in the gym a bunch throughout the summer and worked on it. We played a lot of games, and that really helped. It’s nothing too complicated. You’ve just got to get some reps.”

DeGregorio said he keeps copies of his practice schedules, some since his days coaching at South Allegheny almost 30 years ago. The practices he’s organizing now are very similar to his first season at North Catholic.

“A lot of the offense we can teach through shooting drills,” DeGregorio said. “We probably dedicate 45 minutes to different skill work, so half of our practice is just that. … Jared Reck does a solid 15 minutes of just ball handling and offensive moves for getting to the basket.”

The defenses also have changes from what the NA players have done before. The team is still a work in progress, but DeGregorio said he sees the light bulb turning on for his players.

“Early on, you’re just teaching the basics of, ‘Hey if the ball gets here, you stop here.’ This is where you go and what you do,” he said. “Now we can throw a bunch of numbers and terms at them, and they can get to the spots and do it.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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