OLSH basketball coach Don Eckerle ‘good to go’ after collapsing at PIAA semifinal game

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Tuesday, March 21, 2023 | 1:41 PM


On a hectic game day, with all of the preparation that needs to be done, coaches can neglect themselves at times, said longtime basketball coach Don Eckerle.

That happened to him Monday night.

The Our Lady of the Sacred Heart girls coach collapsed after a state semifinal game at Kiski Area and was taken to a hospital, where he was treated for dehydration.

He was released a few hours later.

“It was basically a day of getting hung up in everything I needed to do and really not eating and drinking properly,” Eckerle said. “I got a clean bill of health and I’m good to go.”

This was Eckerle’s 20th season as OLSH’s coach and the team went farther than ever this winter. The 30-game season ended with a 44-38 loss to District 6 champion River Valley, wrapping up OLSH’s record at 22-8.

OLSH lost in the WPIAL quarterfinals to eventual champion Avonworth, but the Chargers bounced back in states to be the last WPIAL girls team active in the Class 3A bracket.

“It is a long season when you’re being successful,” Eckerle said. “It can be taxing. I know every coach on our staff — boys, girls, whatever — has recognized that. Prior to my little incident last night, over the last couple of days, I’ve had a bunch of conversations with (boys coach Mike Rodriguez) about what he’s gone through over the last handful of years or more, and how many extra games he’s played along the way and how an extended season has impacted him a little bit.”

The OLSH boys won four consecutive WPIAL titles and two state championships from 2019-22.

Eckerle coached Monday’s playoff game without issue, spoke with his players postgame and was waiting for everyone to load onto the team bus when he felt ill.

“It seemed to be dragging on,” he said. “I went out to really round up the troops and say, ‘Let’s get the heck out of here.’ I was asked for an interview by one of the reporters. Basically, I went through three or four questions and started to feel a little lightheaded, sat down and kind of fainted.

“I’m sure for my wife and everybody else, it was pretty scary, but once they got a couple of IVs in, I was on my way to recovery. It didn’t take long.”

Eckerle guided the OLSH girls to the team’s first WPIAL title in 2019, and the Chargers finished as league runners-up last winter. His teams have won at least 20 games in six of the past nine seasons.

His phone was busier than usual Tuesday from folks checking on his health.

“Believe me,” he said, “I’ve had more texts, more phone calls this morning than you can imagine.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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