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‘What are we doing? What's the goal? We're not getting there with this.’
Citizens withheld tears, shouted and questioned board members about the resignation of Amy Gumbert, McKeesport Area High School’s girls basketball coach during Thursday’s open agenda meeting.
Gumbert, a third-year coach who led the Tigers to the WPIAL Class 5A semifinals in her first two seasons, and her staff, which included her brother Eric Gumbert, have all been replaced.
“Coach Amy and Coach Eric have been in my life since I can remember,” sophomore Luciana Lewis said during Thursday’s hearing of citizens. “I knew I could go to either one of them when I needed someone to talk to. They are like family.”
“Amy and Eric have been one of the best coaches ever that I've had since fourth grade,” freshman Morgan McClung said. “They pushed us to the point where we become the best version of ourselves.”
Solicitor Gary Matta said Amy Gumbert verbally resigned earlier this week.
A dispute between members of the basketball team and the coach regarding discipline precipitated Amy Gumbert’s resignation, WTAE-TV reported.
Eric Gumbert told the board that any questions about whether he, his sister or the other coaches ran a “toxic” program were preposterous: “Me and Amy had hundreds and hundreds of kids that came through,” he said. “We took them to lunch. We buy them stuff. We do everything for the community.”
Johnasia Cash, a former McKeesport star who played Division I basketball at Penn State University, credited Amy Gumbert with her own success as a player before questioning the board about its ultimate objective.
“I thought the goal was to win games, to go to the section championships, to go to the state so we can send our girls to Division I basketball,” Cash asked. “What are we doing? What's the goal? We're not getting there with this.”
Cash referenced Amy Gumbert’s athletic accomplishments — Amy Gumbert played alongside Swin Cash when McKeesport won the WPIAL title in 1998 and was named the 2022 Class 5A 2022 Section 4 Coach of the Year — when addressing the board.
“She played as a winner and she's coaching as a winner, and you're all going to take it from a winner? It doesn't make no sense,” Cash said.
The Tigers are currently 14-2, with a 7-1 conference record.
Amy Gumbert told the board her attendance at Thursday’s meeting was to support the players and fellow coaches.
“I'm not here to bash the school. I'm here to fix the problem,” she said. “This could have been done in a better way. I could have been counseled if there was an issue, which come on now there wasn't because I'm a basketball coach and I was coached by the best basketball coach that ever lived [Gerald Grayson].”
Gumbert told the board her intentions are clear: “Through all this, I love my kids and I still want them to win. That is why I'm here — so the whole city knows whoever else is talking bad about me — I love them and I still want them to win.”
Matt Miller, who serves as McKeesport’s football coach, was named coach of the girls basketball team.
“This has been a very hard decision, but the board feels this is the best thing for all the students who are involved,” Matta said.
Following the season’s conclusion, the board will begin searching for a new basketball coach.
Matta added that Amy Gumbert “would be able to apply and I believe would still be under consideration.”
The solicitor also addressed a Thursday fight between students that left a teacher injured.
“One teacher, while breaking it up, injured his shoulder and was taken to a hospital,” Matta said.
Current events are alarming, former board member Joseph Lopretto said.
“We got the basketball, and we had the big fight over at the school today. I mean, it's just out of control,” he said. “It’s giving our district a black eye with everything that’s going on. I'm not happy with that. We can only push forward and hope that things get better.”
Adam Reinherz is a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published February 03, 2024.