Former coach Grybowski still has ‘attachment’ to Lady ’Canes
Mar 09, 2010
By TODD KRISE
PITTSBURGH — Luann Grybowski felt a bit strange walking into Duquesne University’s A.J. Palumbo Center on Saturday.
A year ago on the same court, Grybowski led the New Castle High girls basketball team to its third WPIAL championship in six seasons.
But this past weekend was different.
The 30-year coaching veteran, who spent 21 seasons on the Lady ’Canes’ bench, was a spectator as New Castle battled Hopewell for the Class AAA title.
“There’s still an attachment,” said Grybowski, who recently finished her first season as head coach at Neshannock High. “It’s a good feeling, but it’s a strange one.”
Grybowski left New Castle because her daughter, Tayler, is a seventh-grade student in the Neshannock School District and plays basketball for the Lady Lancers’ junior high team.
It’s a decision, Grybowski’s former assistant and first-year New Castle coach Jason Rankin said, that she doesn’t regret.
“One of the things that she felt bad about was anybody who ever felt that she was abandoning them,” he said. “It’s hard to understand — until you’re a parent — the amount of love that you have for your child. She’s no different than a lot of parents. She did it for all the right reasons.”
Throughout the Lady ’Canes’ 66-61 overtime victory, Grybowski could be heard screaming instructions to her former players — ones that she’s seen play since sixth grade.
When the final horn sounded, tears began to fall from her face. Players like sophomore Kaylynn Waters, who scored a game-high 33 points, came over and gave Grybowski a hug.
“She said that she’s very proud of me,” Waters recalled, “and that I got the job done and that she loves me.”
The WPIAL championship isn’t the only New Castle game that Grybowski has attended this season. She caught glimpses of two regular season contests and was in the stands for the Lady ’Canes’ recent playoff victories over Hampton and Indiana.
She even attended New Castle’s practice on Friday and went over the game plan with Rankin.
The duo discussed the Lady ’Canes’ two victories over Hopewell in the 2008-09 season. New Castle defeated the Lady Vikings with the use of a strong zone defense led by the now-graduated Shelby Rodgers and Jazelle Dennis.
“Last year, we were able to dismantle them both games with the zone,” Rankin said, “but we were a different team last year because we were more physical with Shelby and Jazelle.
“This year, we’re not as physical but we’re faster, so I’ve got to use our strength for this year to the best of our ability.”
Grybowski said she wasn’t surprised that New Castle defended its WPIAL championship on Saturday.
In a way, she predicted it.
“When I left last year, I put a little bit of pressure on Jason when he got the job,” she said. “I told him, ‘You need to be back here and you should be back here with the kids you have coming back.’ I really do think they are the best team in Triple-A.”
Grybowski led Neshannock to a 13-9 record this season that included a nine-game winning streak and a fourth-place finish in the Section 2-AA standings.
The Lady Lancers shined under Grybowski’s fast-paced style of play, leaving many to wonder if Neshannock someday can accomplish the same things that New Castle is now.
“I would absolutely love to win a WPIAL title at Neshannock,” Grybowski told The News during the preseason. “My daughter said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could win one together?’ She was down on the floor with me for all of them at New Castle.
“I just relish the opportunity to do that. The championships at New Castle were great. I loved every one of them.”
And Saturday’s, too.