Lifelong Austintown resident and Fitch graduate Brian Beany will be guiding the Falcon basketball program for the first time this season.
A coach in the Austintown system since 1993, Beany has a familiarity with the entire program that may give him an advantage that most coaches don’t own in their rookie seasons. Beany also brings with him a passion that he hopes he can spread among his players.
“I want winners and kids who want to win,” insisted Beany one recent afternoon. “I want the kids to believe in themselves, believe in each other and believe they can win every single game.”
If the Falcons indeed do win every game it means they will be champions of their new conference. That’s because another change for Fitch this season is its departure from the Federal League and its inaugural campaign in the All American Conference Red Tier. The Falcons were losers in all 10 of their league games last year so they should be thankful for a new beginning. Playing games for keeps against schools like Howland, Canfield and Poland should give Beany’s team all the motivation it will need to succeed.
“This conference is a great fit,” said Beany. “We cut down on our travel and we can build local rivalries. We know (the conference) will be competitive.”
In order to compete in the new conference coach Beany will rely on a bevy of upperclassmen who will see most of the court time. Six seniors are on Fitch’s roster and half of that sextet saw an enormous amount of starting time last winter. Six-foot-five swingman Dan Chepke, six-foot, two-inch guard Nick Williams and six-foot, three-inch forward Trevor Yacovone are the triumvirate of talented Falcons who Beany would like to see be the cream of the crop both on and off the court. Chepke is the team’s leading returning scorer and Williams and Chepke had the most assists per game last season of any Falcon coming back. Yacovone also did a nice job offensively in his junior campaign.
“Those three saw the most varsity playing time (last season),” said Beany. “We expect them to be our leaders and they have shown it so far.”
Senior forward Nate Blair and senior guards Pat Rovnak and Will Mahone will also be heavily counted on to put the ball in the basket. Having a player like Mahone, who has all-world ability on the football field, playing basketball gives Beany’s bunch a little extra oomph in the quickness category.
“Mahone brings a lot of athleticism,” Beany announced excitedly. “He will be a big addition for us.”
Having a group of kids who can excel at multiple positions puts the Falcons in rarified air as well.
“We are very versatile and that can cause mismatches,” Beany explained. “We can also use our athleticism to try and create pressure on defense. We will try to create turnovers with our press and not make anything easy on our opponents.”
With the frenetic pace Beany plans on using it will be important to find more than just the above talked about twelfth-graders to earn varsity minutes. Sophomores Jessie Driver and Alex DiFrancesco are two underclassmen coach Beany mentioned as potential big-time players, but neither has cut their teeth at the upper level yet which has the coach concerned.
“We have a lack of depth,” Beany mentioned. “It may be required that some of the younger kids get a lot of minutes.”
Besides the elimination of experience, the first year coach also cited his team’s lack of height as another worrisome area.
“Size is a concern for us,” said Beany honestly. “Chepke is our biggest player at six feet, five inches. DiFrancesco (who stands six-foot-four) is a true post player, but he is a sophomore so he needs time to develop.”
The Falcons will also need time to develop a rapport with coach Beany’s system. Fitch teams of the past have not had the type of burst required to play an up tempo pace so there will have to be a large learning curve early. Actually, Beany is not particularly fond of a fast pace either, but he realizes that sometimes you have to play the hand you are dealt.
“It’s not my style,” said the coach chuckling, “but you have to adapt to the team you have. I’m sure there will be times when we can slow things down and play more half court, but for now we will use our strengths.”
The freshman bench boss hopes to show off those strengths when the Falcons tip off the season at Jefferson on Dec. 2. Fitch will get a first time taste of the AAC when Canfield comes to Austintown on Dec. 23.