After 41 years in coaching, Jim Nesser steps down at Yough

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Wednesday, May 8, 2024 | 5:30 PM


Though he has won section, WPIAL and PIAA boys basketball championships, Jim Nesser is quick to point out he also has guided teams through rough patches, covering both ends of the spectrum in a coaching career that spans four decades.

“I have been to the top, and I have been to the bottom,” said Nesser, 63. “When I was at Elizabeth Forward, we lost 22 games in a row. We lost 44 games in two years. It’s not always easy, that’s for sure. I don’t keep track of how many wins I have. But I remember some losses.”

Something else wasn’t easy, either: his decision to resign as coach at Yough after six seasons — 12 when you count his first stint on Cougar Mountain in the early 1980s.

Nesser, who has been coaching for 41 years with numerous stops in and around Westmoreland County, did not say his time on the sidelines is over completely. But his time with Yough is indeed finished.

His decision appears to coincide with a career move. He has been teaching at Yough for 38 years and is on the doorstep of retirement.

“I am 99% sure,” the social studies teacher said about leaving the classroom. “I have lost sleep thinking about this the last couple months.

“I always kind of thought I would stop coaching when I stopped teaching. It’s time to let it go and move on. All good things come to an end.

“It’s going to be a big adjustment not to work. But I needed to cut the cord.”

A man who won nine section titles with five programs, Nesser started coaching when he was 22 as a ninth-grade coach at Yough — before the 3-point line.

He took over as head coach at 25 and led the Cougars for six seasons.

After three years at Penn State McKeesport, he spent two at Southmoreland, seven at Elizabeth Forward, three at Jeannette, four at Hempfield and one at Greensburg Central Catholic, his alma mater, before his full-circle move back to Yough.

Don’t forget about his season as an assistant at Seton Hill.

He won WPIAL and PIAA titles at Jeannette in 2008.

Nesser used the words process and progress when he talked about his time at Yough.

“There are good people at Yough, and they have treated me well,” he said. “The kids, the parents, the administration, they have all been good to me. The kids are the most rewarding part. They let me coach them, and they put the time in.”

In his latest run with the Cougars, he went 67-68 with gradual improvement that saw the team reach heights it hadn’t since superstar Ben McCauley led the team nearly 20 years ago.

Yough went from 8-14 in his first year back to 19-7 last winter.

The Cougars won back-to-back section titles for the first time with standouts Terek Crosby, a 2,000-point career scorer, and Austin Matthews leading the way.

Last year, Yough made the PIAA playoffs for the second time in program history.

“It’s about the kids; it’s not about Jim Nesser,” Nesser said. “One thing I can say is that I gave everybody 100% all the time. I coached hard, I prepared hard and we played hard. I am proud of that.”

Nesser, who remarried in 2017 and has a young daughter, parts ways with longtime staffers Sam Sunder and Will “Boo” Sherbondy.

“I went to a Nike coaching clinic when I was 33,” Nesser said. “Mike Krzyzewski was the speaker. I’m there with my pencil and paper ready to take notes on basketball. He spent two hours talking about relationships. He was right. Coaching is all about the relationships, not the X’s and O’s.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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