Ray Bartha retires after 579 wins as Apollo-Ridge girls basketball coach

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Sunday, February 26, 2023 | 5:07 PM


Ray Bartha said he knew it was time.

“Pretty much at the beginning of the season, I made up my mind that this would be it,” said Bartha, the longtime Apollo-Ridge girls basketball coach who officially retired last week after his second stint leading the Vikings.

“At the end of the season, regardless of the outcome, I was going to call it quits. I was getting tired. Basketball is a long season. It’s six days a week. I was running out of energy as the season went on. I made it through the season OK, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to be if I came back and how much energy I was going to have to do it all over again next season. I didn’t want to push it.”

Bartha, 76, also mentioned a heart condition that caused him to have open-heart surgery five years ago.

“I’ve been pretty good since then, but I don’t need any more of the stress that sometimes comes with the job,” he said.

Bartha’s first run as Apollo-Ridge coach lasted 34 seasons and ended Feb. 23, 2010, after a 42-41 loss to South Fayette in the first round of the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs.

In those 34 seasons, the Vikings won 536 games, 11 section titles, and captured the WPIAL Class 2A championship in 1991.

Bartha stayed connected to the program, and he returned as coach for the 2020-21 season after the resignation of Mike Monstrola.

About a year ago, Bartha stepped down as athletic director, a position he held since 2008. He previously was a special education and social studies teacher.

He passed the AD baton to John Skiba, also Apollo-Ridge’s football coach, in early April.

Bartha caps his legendary coaching career with 579 victories.

The Vikings won 19 of their 23 games in his final season. They finished runner-up to Shady Side Academy in Section 3-3A and earned the first home game in the history of Apollo-Ridge basketball, boys or girls.

In Bartha’s final game, a WPIAL first-round contest against Mohawk, the Vikings suffered a 55-41 loss on Feb. 18.

Bartha and his Apollo-Ridge team were on hand for history Jan. 3 as Shady Side Academy coach Jonna Burke joined the exclusive 500-win club.

While he didn’t like that it came at his team’s expense, Bartha offered Burke congratulations for her milestone victory. It is a rare occurrence in high school basketball when two coaches who have amassed nearly 1,100 wins go head-to-head.

Apollo-Ridge honored Bartha during a game against Riverview in mid-December by naming the basketball court at the high school after him.

His signature will be a permanent feature on the court in the gym.

In a speech during the ceremony, an emotional Bartha thanked all the people, including his daughters Shane and Jennifer, and his granddaughters, Brinley and Kylar, who played for him over his 30-plus years as coach.

“I am blessed to grow up with such a wonderful role model who has taught me to be the best person I can be,” said Brinley, a senior, during the ceremony.

Bartha said he has coached more than 200 girls at the varsity level.

He said he has enjoyed his second run as coach the past three seasons.

“I wouldn’t have come back unless I thought I could contribute,” said Bartha, who helped guide the last three teams to a combined record of 43-16.

“I was coaching them down at the junior high level when the opportunity came up. Being able to coach my granddaughter after coaching both of my daughters, not too many coaches get to have that privilege.”

Both Shane, a 1991 Apollo-Ridge graduate, and Jennifer, a 1993 grad, enjoyed highly successful careers with the Vikings and were instrumental in bringing home the 1991 WPIAL crown.

Brinley Toland, along with fellow senior starters Sydney McCray and Delaney Fitzroy, will move on from the varsity team, but Kylar Toland, a sophomore, along with juniors Sophia Yard and Jaden Mull, and sophomore Paige Crawford, will help form the core of an Apollo-Ridge team hoping to make a fourth straight trip to the WPIAL playoffs in 2023-24.

“There will be a number of decent players back to build the team around,” Bartha said.

Bartha, a self-proclaimed “basketball junkie,” said he probably will stay involved with the game in some form, but it won’t be as a high school head coach.

He didn’t rule out being a consultant, volunteer or a lower-stress coaching position.

“Two things I am not going to miss: watching hours of video and long bus rides in cold weather,” Bartha said with a chuckle.

“But the game of basketball and Apollo-Ridge will always be in my heart.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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