Ron Insinger aiming for 800th win with Loyalsock boys

The 22-year rookie was lost. New Loyalsock basketball coach Ron Insinger had so many questions, but no direction.

Just then, a familiar face appeared. While Insinger had never met the man, he had seen him on television. It was UCLA coach John Wooden, the man who had led his Bruins to seven straight national championships. Wooden pointed the way to the coaching clinic at the Hyatt in New Jersey and asked Insinger to join him for lunch. Soon, the student was learning from the master.

Insinger has been pointed in the right direction ever since. The man who learned from a coaching legend is closing in on some legendary milestones.

Insinger needs one more win to reach 800 as Loyalsock boys basketball coach. He has a chance to become only the state’s second high school boys coach to reach that number Saturday when his Lancers meet Mid Valley in the state tournament’s first round at Williamsport. Two more wins and Insinger, commonly known as CI for “Coach Insinger”, ties North Catholic’s Don Graham as the state’s all-time boys basketball wins leader.

“It would be big time,” guard Kyle Datres said. “He doesn’t talk about it much, but us players we’re always working to have him be successful the way he does with us. So to get him 800 would be a big deal.”

“I never thought I would coach this long, but it’s really not about CI, it’s about our system and our system is what’s won all these games,” Insinger said. “That’s what I’m most proud of, the system we have in place and the fact that I’ve been blessed with so many great kids over the years and so many great coaches. To have the kids respond to coaching the way they have has made it very gratifying.”

Insinger is in his 38th year at Loyalsock. He coached the girls and boys teams his first three seasons since the boys played in the winter and the girls in the spring. As a girls coach he won 75 games and two district championships. But it is his boys’ resume that makes most coaches envious.

Loyalsock delivered Insinger his 17th district title last Saturday, his eighth since 2001. Insinger also has led Loyalsock to 20 league championships, 27 20-win seasons and 13 straight playoff appearances. His teams have suffered just three losing seasons and he has smoothly transitioned from one generation to the next, always in touch with his players and always enthusiastic.

“Half the battle is loving it and no doubt he loves it. Every day he walks in the gym he’s excited to be there,” said Jeff Everett, Loyalsock’s JV coach the last two years. “In college the toughest part was staying motivated every day, but when you have a coach walk in like CI every day like it’s the first day of the year, it’s not hard to get motivated. When you see how excited he is that rubs off on you.”

Since Insinger arrived, winning has rubbed off on Loyalsock. The Lancers feature one of the state’s premier basketball traditions and have played in 11 of the last 13 state tournaments. The basketball banners hanging in the gym literally are overtaking all the walls. Insinger usually has known all the athletes that earned those banners from when they first began playing.

Each one enters the program not hoping to win, but expecting to do so. That is the mentality Insinger has instilled in his players and the program.

“One thing I tell everybody is that when you end up coaching anywhere else you have to build up a culture. At Loyalsock that culture is already here and it’s incredible,” Everett said. “That is why the kids are working so hard. The kids know there is so much legacy. You walk into practice and younger guys are peaking in. It’s almost addicting. You want to be part of not only the tradition, but the family being built.”

Insinger’s players, past and present, are his extended family. There have been superstars and those who did not play much over the years. Insinger has a special place in his heart for all of them.

The kids, the teaching and the motivating is what drives Insinger more than the wins.

“The people that have played for or against CI, or that he has taught is probably immeasurable. Every college break brings back alumni who fill the gym to play against the current team, and all kids are met with smiles from CI,” Loyalsock athletic trainer Barbara Wertz said. “CI has told me stories about what past players are doing now. He has introduced me to several alum who have lived out of state and come back to Sock to visit – specifically to see CI and introduce their kids to him, their dad’s coach.”

Throughout the first half of his career, Insinger was mostly a basketball coach. He started out as one of the state’s youngest, so as his players grew and matured so did he. As the years have passed Insinger has become as much a life coach as a basketball coach. The lessons he teaches go beyond the court. They are the ones his players carry the rest of their lives.

Insinger also is Loyalsock’s athletic director and has taught several students how to drive over the years. But those are just labels. They do not do him justice.

“CI has been like a second father to me since I joined Little Lancers basketball way back in middle school. Along with my dad and my grandfather, CI helped me develop a passion for basketball and is the reason why I always dreamed about being a part of the Loyalsock basketball dynasty that our school is known for,” said 2011 all-state center Tyler Bogaczyk, now attending Bucknell. “Whether it was at practice, in his office, or working at his basketball camps, CI and I developed a very strong relationship both on and off the court. I felt like I could talk to him about anything. We have had many heart to heart conversations and he has helped me through some very rough times.”

Insinger learned from Wooden to surround himself with excellent coaches and has done so over the years. He also has surrounded himself with those who constantly motivate him and constantly make him smile. Special needs people like Pedie McDonald and Dana Williams have become Loyalsock basketball fixtures.

“They make me feel much younger just by osmosis or whatever you want to call it,” Insinger said. “Just being around them and having fun with them is wonderful. Having Pedie and Dana there, they are a trademark of our program and that in itself is so rewarding.”

Insinger helped Dan Temons become an inspirational person and player since first coaching him in the Little Lancer Program. Temons, an autistic senior, has flourished at Loyalsock on and off the court. Temons scored on a buzzer-beater after Wellsboro freshman Dawson Prough passed him the ball to cap Saturday’s championship. That moment, that look on Temons’ face is the reason Insinger coaches.

The competitive fire continues raging. One does not sit on the threshold of 800 wins without going all out, all the time. As the years pass, though, Insinger will be remembered more for how he has impacted a program and a community. The wins are impressive but they are not the measure of the man. The man who soon might be Pennsylvania’s all-time wins leader is in the most simplest terms something more important.

“He is a terrific coach and an even better friend,” Bogaczyk said. “CI has impacted my life in more ways than I could ever explain. I am honored and blessed to have been able to play under a coach like CI during my high school career.”