Insinger wins 900th as Loyalsock boys coac

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette
Loyalsock Superintendent Gerald McLaughlin presents a basketball to Boysl Basketball Head Coach Ron Insinger after his 900th career win Saturday.

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Loyalsock Superintendent Gerald McLaughlin presents a basketball to Boysl Basketball Head Coach Ron Insinger after his 900th career win Saturday.

Loyalsock coach Ron Insinger smiled and clapped as Mitch Klingerman scored the game-clinching layup. A few feet away, Insinger’s three grand children stood, let out joyful shouts, and started jumping.

Three generations celebrated at that moment, driving home how long Insinger has been coaching. And what a story those grandchildren can tell their kids some day.

Gerald Ross scored his 1,000th career point, four players scored in double figures and Insinger earned his 900th win as Loyalsock’s boys basketball coach Saturday as the Lancers erased a 12-point second-quarter deficit and defeated Athens, 71-57. Insinger is one of only two Pennsylvania coaches to ever reach 900 wins and has 974 total when one combines his 74 girls basketball wins at Loyalsock.

“It’s a special day for the Township,” Insinger said. “Gerald and I are just a small piece of the puzzle. It takes so much with coaching staffs, the administration, the cooperation from parents and so on to make this happen.”

“Having it being Senior Night, coach getting his 900th win and me scoring my 1,000th point … it was an unreal afternoon and I was just blessed to be here,” Ross said. “CI (Coach Insinger) is a great coach. We have a great group of guys and this program always has great players.”

Insinger has built one of the state’s premier programs in his 44 years at Loyalsock and his resume reads like a fine novel. In addition to winning 900 games, the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Famer has led Loyalsock to 19 district championships, 26 league titles and 35 20-win seasons. Loyalsock is 16-5 this season and will compete in next week’s Heartland Conference Tournament after winning last year’s championship. Insinger also has led Loyalsock to the state tournament in 15 of the last 18 seasons.

When Insinger began coaching in 1974, high school coaching was not as much a 52-week job as it is now. Between the time consumption, other pressures and coaching a small school, it really is a wonder that Insinger has been able to last this long. That he has done so while winning so consistently is quite remarkable.

“It’s weird to think about. Everyone is like they saw him get his 700th and then 800th and now it’s 900. Then you sit back and think about it and that’s a long time to do something like that. It’s not easy,” Klingerman said after scoring 15 points. “He said the other day that he’s coached somewhere around 1,270 games. We were like, ‘oh my gosh!'”

Ironically, Insinger was not a basketball guy growing up. His passion was baseball and if one would have asked a teenage Insinger what sport he might one day coach the longest baseball would have been the answer. Insinger, who also coached soccer when he first started teaching at Loyalsock, soon started changing his mind after opening that 1974 campaign. Loyalsock went 15-8 that season, 14-8 the next and then made a huge leap to 25-1 by year No. 3. A district dynasty was taking shape.

Insinger was hooked. The winning ways never stopped and nothing has slowed Insinger who seems as energetic today as he was 44 years ago.

“Never in a million years since I started Game 1 did I think that I would be around this long,” Insinger said. “When I started coaching basketball it kind of grew on me. The John Wooden story instilled me to go to the next level and the next level. It just kind of snowballed. I got to 100 and then it got to 200 and I kept making lofty goals for myself and I was blessed to have a great coaching staff all the time and I was blessed with super players. I treasure to coach day in and day out and thus the wins mounted up.”

Loyalsock has not endured a losing season since 2000 and following that year, it captured five straight District 4 Class AA championships. Insinger has made his mark in each of the five decades he has coached, winning four more district championships this decade. The winning has continued this season despite losing three starters from last year’s 21-win state qualifier.

Players change, playing styles have changed and time has drastically changed. Insinger has been the one constant.

“Coach always tells us don’t underestimate anybody. Always work hard and practice hard and if you do your job and be yourself, you’ll be fine,” Ross said. “If I have kids that play here some day I’ll be like, ‘I played here when they had the best coach in the area. It will be a cool story to tell my kids.”

“Some of us kind of take for granted being a part of Loyalsock,” Klingerman said. “If we were at another school we’d think we were part of something amazing.”

Early, it looked like Athens would not let Insinger experience another amazing moment. The Wildcats (12-8) built a 26-14 second-quarter lead as both Gavin Stein (29 points) and Ethan Lane (19) looked unstoppable at times. Loyalsock, though, pulled within two by halftime and went ahead to stay on a Connor Watkins putback early in the third quarter. By midway through the fourth, the Lancers built a 13-point lead and Insinger was able to take in the final minutes.

Ross scored a team-high 27 points and Klingerman, Watkins and Anthony Pastore all had big second halves, all reaching double figures. Watkins produced 10 second-half points and five rebounds while Klingerman scored 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter.

As excited as Insinger was following the win, he already was looking ahead. Therein lies one of the keys to his long-term success. He is never satisfied.

“We have to put it in perspective and move forward,” Insinger said. “It’s special for today, but tomorrow is another day and we have to wake up and make a name for ourselves, starting all over again.”

Just do not expect to ever see anyone from this area again achieve what Insinger has.

Insinger’s wife Carol kept the scorebook yesterday as she has throughout his 45 seasons while his two daughters, Laurie and Lisa, sat close by throughout the game. The grand children have been involved the last few years and almost always are good for a laugh as they produce amusing sideline theatrics. This truly has become a family passion and this common bond shows no signs of breaking.

“Ultimately he’s made all of us better people. His main goal is to turn us from boys to men. It’s not just about basketball, it’s about life, and he makes a really big impact on all of us,” Klingerman said. “Just being at the practices and the games, his heart just keeps pushing. I don’t think anything is stopping him.”

ATHENS (57)

Gavin Stein 11 4-4 29, Ethan Lane 7 2-2 19, Mateo Gaglini 0 0-0 0, Keegan Rude 1 6-6 8, Aric Westbrook 0 1-2 1, Ben Gambrell 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 13-14 57.

LOYALSOCK (71)

Gerald Ross 10 6-8 27, Anthony Pastore 4 2-3 11, Connor Watkins 7 0-1 14, Mitch Klingerman 5 3-4 15, Bam Brima 1 0-1 2, Brandon Bauman 1 0-0 2, Aiden Gair 0 0-0 0, Collin Graver 0 0-0 0, Ryan Sullivan 0 0-0 0. Totals 28 11-17 71.

Athens 20 10 12 15–57

Loyalsock 14 14 20 23–71

3-pointers: Athens 6 (Stein 3, Lane 3); Loyalsock 4 (Klingerman 2, Ross, Pastore).

Records: Loyalsock 16-5. Athens 12-8.

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