Art McCray named basketball coach; stresses academic and athletic discipline
CAMPUS GRADUATE AND FORMER PLAYER
Art McCray, supervisor and head varsity boys basketball coach at Summit Academy, was named head men's basketball coach at Penn State New Kensington, it was announced Feb. 13 by Dave Murray, director of athletics.
McCray, a graduate and former player at the campus, takes over for Joe Mandak, who served as interim head coach for the past month. Former head coach Doug Schneider resigned in January.
As basketball coach at Summit for the past three years, McCray compiled a 23-11 section record and a 39-31 overall record that included two section titles, an appearance in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) Elite Eight, and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Sweet 16. The titles were the first for Summit in any sport.
Summit Academy is a high school in Butler County for court-adjudicated youth. Students are usually there for one year. Many leave on a positive note and return home because they fulfilled the requirements of their assigned program. McCray never coached a player for more than one season.
“Given the circumstances of not having returning players, losing starters due to positive completion of the program, and students coming from different backgrounds and areas, it (winning section titles) was a great accomplishment for those young men, and it was great to be a part of it,” said McCray, who is in the middle of putting together a coaching staff. “Now my staff and I come into a situation with student- athletes who have played together and have a decent basketball IQ. This gives us confidence that we can be successful at Penn State New Kensington.”
The 36-year-old McCray brings extensive coaching and playing experience into the new position. At the New Kensington campus, he played under Paul Holzshu and Lance Maha. At Chartiers Valley High School, he played for Tim McConnell. All three are coaching stalwarts of WPIAL basketball and produced successful programs through in-season and off-season preparation. McCray draws upon the best elements from each one.
“Those three have taught me a lot, and for that I thank them,” said McCray, who was named team captain by all three coaches. “The way they attack their off-season workouts, conditioning programs and how they prepare for games is what make them successful. I plan on using the same approach at New Kensington.”
As a player at the campus, McCray was a solid defender, leading the team in rebounding and blocked shots. The 6’6 power forward/center helped the New Kensington Lions to two conference championships in 1996 and 1997. As a student, he earned an associate degree from the campus before receiving a basketball scholarship to play at Lock Haven University. He completed his bachelor’s degree work in Rehabilitation Sciences at Penn State University Park.
Since 2001, he has been an administrator and teacher at Summit Academy. For the past two years he has served as an assistant to the principal with the responsibility of supervising the instructional program and discipline of the school.
McCray expects to play a major role in helping New Kensington student-athletes achieve their academic and athletic goals. His previous experiences at the campus give him an appreciation of the academic responsibilities as well as the athletic responsibilities that come with being a member of an intercollegiate program.
“Student athletes must understand that their first priority is to accomplish their academic goal of receiving a degree,” McCray said. “They will dive on the floor for books before they will be given a chance to dive for a loose ball, meaning they will understand the importance of academics. Playing basketball at Penn State New Kensington is a privilege, and it comes second to academics.”
With his penchant for rebounds and blocked shots, it is no surprise that McCray’s basketball philosophy revolves around defense. He expects defense to be his new team’s greatest strength.
“I am a firm believer that defense wins championships,” McCray said. “That will be reflected by tough ball-hawking, in-your-face defense. Lazy defense will not be tolerated.”
McCray takes over a basketball program that hasn’t had a winning season since the 2008-09 when Ryan Shank’s squad finished with a 22-6 record and ranked sixth nationally in the United State Collegiate Athletic Association. This year’s team, inexperienced and dominated by freshmen, went 1-17. All five starters will return, including freshman forward Rashon Boone, who played for McCray last year as a starter on the academy’s title team. The new coach wants to build on the current roster, so scouting and recruiting begins in earnest right away. McCray’s first foray into collegiate recruiting begins with the WPIAL playoffs that opened Feb. 19. His connections to WPIAL coaches should make the challenge a little less daunting.
“As far as recruiting goes we are late in the game, but the response from local coaches and players has been great,” said McCray, who was raised in Rennerdale, Pennsylvania. “The current roster gives us a canvas to work on, and we are building a team that plays under control and with aggression.”
Campus athletic teams compete in the Penn State University Athletic Conference and the United States Collegiate Athletic Association. The PSUAC comprises 15 Penn State campuses that are located throughout the state. New Kensington has won a record 14 PSUAC (formerly called the Commonwealth Campus Athletic Conference) men’s basketball titles.
“As a former student, Coach McCray is familiar with the campus and comfortable in the environment,” Murray said. “He has the ability to turn this program around and get us back to the top of the PSUAC.”
Conference champions earn an automatic bid to the USCAA tournaments. The USCAA is a national organization that is geared to provide athletic opportunities to small colleges — those with enrollments of less than 2,500. It sponsors 11 national championship tournaments in men's and women's sports. Established in 2001, the USCAA was incorporated to provide an opportunity for members to compete on an equal level of competition with schools of similar size and athletic programs. Headquartered in Newport News, Va., the organization has more than 82 member institutions in 24 states, stretching from Maine to California. Since joining the USCAA in 2005, the New Kensington campus has produced five All-Americans and nine Academic All-Americans.
McCray is a resident of Apollo where he lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their four children, Keyvahn 9, Sydney 7, Jaden 5, and Mikayla 3.