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  Former YSU Women’s Basketball Coach Ed DiGregorio Dies At 93  
  Led Lady Penguins To Three NCAA Post-Season Berths:   April 9, 2020 Edition  
     BY GREG GULAS
      Boardman News Sports
      bnews@zoominternet.net
      When the Youngstown State University women’s basketball program needed a shot in the arm in the early 1980’s, newly appointed athletic director Joe Malmisur relied on his East Side roots and tabbed childhood friend, Ed DiGregorio, as the man charged with the task.
      A noted athlete during his scholastic and collegiate days, DiGregorio, a long time resident of Mayflower Dr. in Boardman, passed away on Sunday, Apr. 5 at age 93. He served 20 years (1983-84-2002-03) at the helm of the women’s program where he led them to six 20-win seasons, five consecutive conference championships, three Mid-Continent Conference Tournament titles and three apperances in NCAA post-season tournaments.
      The winningest head coach in Penguins’ women’s basketball history, he finished with a 320-241 (.570 winning percentage) overall mark and was inducted into the YSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003 for his efforts.
      Jim Tressel, former Penguins head football coach (1986-2000) and current YSU president, said DiGregorio was a role model who cared deeply about all student-athletes.
      “Coach DiGregorio is truly one of the giants in the coaching world that blessed my years at YSU,” Tressel said. “He, along with Joe Malmisur, Jack McKenna and Ed Strauss, were the ultimate role models as to how one must care deeply about their student-athletes.
      “Coach DiGreg had high expectations for his Penguins, on and off the court, which resulted in some of the finest teams in our history as well as some of the finest young ladies that have ever worn the red and white. His wisdom and love will be missed by us all,” Tressel said.
      DiGregorio took over for Jeff Cohen, who lasted just one season (1982-83) and posted an 11-16 overall ledger.
      He went 7-17 his first season and the following year went 14-13 overall, the first of his 12 winning seasons.
      Dan Wathen served as head athletic trainer during DiGregorio’s 20-year run.
      “It was with great sadness that I learned of Coach D’s passing. It was an honor and privilege to have been able to work with him during his YSU tenure,” Wathen added. “An even greater honor was the friendship we had for the past four decades. I’ll miss our lunches and conversations and I am sure that all his former players and Penguins fans join me in expressing our love for him, also in wishing his family heartfelt condolences.”
      A graduate of East High School, he played basketball and earned his undergraduate degree from Mount Union College, later earning his MA from Westminster College.
      He built a reputation as a person who supported everything and everyone on the YSU campus and in the Mahoning Valley.
      He recommended Ken Brayer – he is the former student sports information director and football equipment manager who has had a seven-decade association with YSU – for his first teaching position.
      “Ed recommended me for my first teaching position at East High School,” Brayer stated. “I appreciated his willingness to help a new teacher, his guidance in and out of the classroom and the genuine concern he had for his students and athletes.
      “With his many teaching and coaching duties, he still made sure he spent time with his family and never hesitated to ask about my wife and our family.”
      DiGregorio twice earned Mid-Continent Conference “Coach-of-the-Year” honors, first in 1995 and again in 1999.
      Players like Colleen Cook, Ann Marie Martin and Shannon Beach, members of his famed “Fab-5” recruits that played from 1994-98, were responsible for DiGregorio’s post-season accolades.
      “Coach D and his wife Edie first saw me play in the state championship game in Hershey, Pa. As those who know coach, he took a big chance on an average student and unproven point guard,” noted Cook, who led the team in steals three consecutive years (1995-96 to 1997-98) and in assists during the 1996-97 season. “Turned out God’s hand led me to a town, school and team where I reached academic and athletic aspirations beyond anything I could have planned.
      “I graduated cum laude with a major in accounting and was a part of one of the top 32 teams in the country in 1998. As a coach he kept things simple with basic drills, plays, conditioning and it worked. Coach’s demeanor was confident, intelligent and he was respected by all who knew him.
      “We always looked forward to special holiday meals at his home and handmade cookies from his wife. He developed relationships with our families and watched out for us on road trips [meals, planes, buses], making sure we were safe in our dorms and doing well in school. His influence in Youngstown and any city we visited was impressive.
      “He pulled me from a practice at our first NCAA tournament and introduced me to Joe Paterno as he knew he was a legend to me. He took us to Mass if we were traveling on Sunday’s and always wanted to help people succeed. Well, he did that on and off the court and I will forever remember the influence he had and continues to have on me as a player, student, child, wife and parent.
      “What a huge loss. There aren’t a lot of people like him anymore. Prayers to his family during this difficult time as we say goodbye to a life well-lived and a legacy to be admired.”
      Beach scored 1,148 points from 1993-98.
      “We lost a good one today,” Beach said. “He was my coach of things more than basketball. In my college years, I just saw basketball. He made me love it more than I thought possible and to that I am most grateful.
      “I love this game and I love YSU. In my later years, I just saw life, real and raw. While I relish the great times and successes we had and oh, the fun, my most vivid memory as an adult was his battle with cancer.
      “He was determined and resilient. As a team, we saw him get sick, lose his hair due to treatments yet he still coached us to great success despite it and because of it. I didn’t get it as much as I do now.
      “The last time I saw him was at a YSU recognition event and despite his frailty, he walked to me and said, ‘How’s your boy?’ I have been praying for him. He cared more for me and my family than anything else.
      “It was always more than basketball with him. Always, and that’s what I want people to know. That is what made him and the program great. And oh, the green hair, the greatest basketball moment between him and me.”
      Martin is a noted area hardwood official who scored 1,630 career points for the Penguins.
      “When I received the news of Coach D’s passing, I was filled with many different emotions,” Martin stated. “I was sad because the world is going to miss an amazing, genuine human being who would always put everyone else before himself. Then I was happy because I realized the impact that he had not only on my life, but everyone else that was lucky to know him.
      “I will be forever grateful for him. The memories we had, the lessons he taught me and how he had a large impact on who I am today. He was like a second father to me, calling us his other daughters.
      “The one thing that I will always remember is him saying, “if your feet are set, shoot the ball and put it into the fishing net. This resembled how he looked at life because if your feet are set then you will be ready for anything. He not only taught us about basketball but he prepared us to be successful adults. We will always be grateful for you, Coach D.”
      Former Boardman Spartans football standout Joe Conroy, longtime YSU women’s volleyball coach and a member of the sports information stat crew during DiGregorio’s coaching tenure, called his colleague a one of a kind mentor and friend.
      “Coach D was a great friend. He was someone who always had the time to listen to everyone,” Conroy added. “As a coach, he demanded excellence from each player and got the most out of his teams. The proof is when you walked into Beeghly Center, took one look around and saw what he was able to get out of his players.”
      Two players, Dorothy Bowers and Danielle Carson, are local products who helped kick-start DiGregorio’s program and lay the foundation for future teams and the success they would eventually enjoy.
      Bowers, like DiGregorio, was an East High alum who played from 1984-88 and would go on to become the program‘s all-time leading scorer with 2,324 points. She remains one of just two, 2,000-point scorers on the distaff side – Brandi Brown, who played from 2009-13 is the other with 2,079 career points – and remains second overall – the all-time leader is Jeff Covington, who scored 2,424 career markers from 1974-78 – between the men’s and women’s programs.
      “I am at a loss with the death of Coach DiGregorio. We lost a legend,” Bowers stated. “The legacy he created at YSU can’t even be described in words. Coach D has always been more than a coach to me. He was a father figure, mentor and friend and was like family.
      “He knew my entire family, my grandmother, mother, aunts, uncles, siblings, husband and my children. His family remains my family to this day and his daughters are my sisters, his sons my brothers. He supported me even after my college career, coming to every event that I had as recent as last year. We talked often, I would visit with him and beside my family he is one of the reasons I am where I am today as a college dean.
      “Looking back 35 years ago, he took a chance on me and made Tanja Simone and I his first recruits at YSU. It was by far the best four years of my life. I learned to be the best basketball player I could be, traveling across the United States while playing the game I love and learning how to be a successful woman with this man under our guard.
      “Coach DiGregorio worked very hard to turn the program around and he did. He brought in class act players and coaches and put YSU women’s basketball on the map. He raised money for the program, using some of his own money at times and he was just so supportive of YSU, still going to games and letting the world know that YSU is a great place.
      “He went above and beyond for the program and especially his players, ensuring we had the best of everything. I will be forever thankful for the opportunity to have played for him and coached with him. Coach D was so proud of me but I was even more proud of him and his spirit of love and giving that he always displayed.”
      Carson scored 1,697 career points, which was second to just Wanda Grant – she scored 1,829 career points from 1977-81 – at the time of her graduation. She played her final three seasons under DiGregorio.
      “It’s definitely a very sad day today for our YSU family,” she noted. “Coach D’s passing brings so many emotions. I loved his stories about growing up since he was being in the late 1920s. His love for his wife, children and grandchildren was so beautiful.
      “You could see how much he cared for every one of his players throughout the years. He wasn’t just a coach for woman’s basketball, he was guiding us for our futures after college. I will never forget his underhand foul shots and cannot say thank you enough for such wonderful memories.”
      Current women’s head coach, John Barnes, said DiGregorio truly was one of a kind who cared passionately about YSU, the Mahoning Valley and especially the Penguins’ women’s hoop program.
      “I was so sorry to learn of the passing of Coach DiGregorio. He meant so much to the community, YSU and especially our women’s basketball program,” Barnes said. “The day of my press conference he reached out to make sure I was taken care of and comfortable. He took extra time to introduce me to many of the community members and throughout my time here was always there with an encouraging word and pat on the back.
      “Coach D reached heights at YSU that every coach aspires to achieve. He not only set the bar with championships, but also with great relationships developed over many years and will truly be missed.”
      Current YSU director of athletics, Ron Strollo, said DiGregorio was the most caring coach who had time for everyone.
      “Then thing that stands out to me is the love that he had for his players and how emotional he was when he was with them,” Strollo stated. “He really enjoyed the time that he was able to spend with them when we were honoring his anniversary teams and their many accomplishments.
      “He found overachievers that came together as a team and just won. Most interesting is the impact that he had on our program. His success created a brand for us on the women’s basketball side and because of that, made us an attractive destination for future players and coaches.
      “His love for his wife, Edie, and his family was unparalleled and Nicole and I will miss him dearly.”
      Boardman Spartans standout, Tanja Simione, joined Bowers as DiGregorio’s first two recruits and was a part of the solid foundation that was laid in those early years. She played from 1984-88, scored 823 career points and dished out 376 assists over a stellar four-year career.
      “We were the lucky ones, all of us Lady Penguins who were fortunate to play for Coach D,” Simione added. “He had a big heart and treated us like queens both on and off the court. He wanted us to have great experiences and our holiday classics included traveling to New York City, Florida and Las Vegas where he would always have fun and exciting activities planned for us aside from playing basketball.
      “On the court he was a fierce competitor. He would be the first to praise us when we did well and when we would do something not so smart, he never belittled us but he did know how to throw some smack down and make us all laugh at our personal mistakes on the court.
      “He got to know each of us, treating us fair and equal all the time. His family came to every game and they were such a big part of the team. Family came first for him and he taught us to lead by example. For me, personally, he was a father figure and was always there for me when I needed him most.
      “He will be missed, but it gives all of us comfort knowing that he led a long life, one of service to YSU and the community while touching so many lives along the way.”
      Rick Love, current associate athletic director, first got to know DiGregorio during his undergraduate days at YSU.
      “Coach D was one of the classiest coaches and gentlemen that I have had the privilege of working with during my over 30-plus years in athletics,” noted Love. “YSU celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the 2000 women’s basketball team’s trip to the NCAA tournament this past February and what was apparent from all of the players who returned for the event was how much love, respect and admiration they all had for him.
      “Coach D wasn’t just a coach or mentor but someone they admired long after their playing days. The Mahoning Valley and YSU family certainly lost a coaching legend, a man who made his mark as a hall of fame coach for the Penguins.”
      DiGregorio hired Boardman’s Bill Terlesky as an assistant principal at East High School at mid-year in 1970, giving him his first administrative position in the Youngstown City Schools.
      “Ed was the first guy that I worked for as an assistant principal and I am proud to say that he was my mentor,” Terlesky said. “He was an easy guy to work for because he clearly stated what he expected of you, knew you’d make a few silly mistakes and then grow from them.
      “He was a strong family man who wanted to run East High like that and he did. He treated the custodial staff the same way he treated teachers and administration and made EHS a fun place to work. We shared many rounds of golf, laughed the whole time and I’ll always remember him as one of the very best that I ever worked for and with.”
      Overall, DiGregorio coached in all three leagues of which YSU has been a member including the Ohio Valley Conference (1983-1988), Mid-Continent Conference (1992-2001) and Horizon League (2001-03).
      He mentored 13 players that were named first-team all-conference while 10 players were named all-conference second team.
      Four athletes earned conference player of the year laurels including Bowers (1987-88, OVC), Liz Hauger (1996-97, Mid-Con), Shannon Beach (1997-98, Mid-Con) and two-time POY Brianne Kenneally (1998-99 and 1999-2000 in the Mid-Con).
      DiGregorio and his wife, Edie, are the parents of five children; James, Marilyn, Cheryl, Karen and the late Edward.
     
      PICTURED: DURING THE 2000-01 CAMPAIGN, Youngstown State women’s basketball coach Ed DiGregorio notched his 300th win in a 74-59 victory over Valpo. He is pictured here with Nikki Pope, 22, after that game.
 
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