Sancomb Excited to Have Opportunity as a Vulcan

WHEELING — Life can often times deliver some unexpected curveballs.

Danny Sancomb was served up a huge one this past spring.

The successful and affable Wheeling Jesuit University men’s basketball coach was unceremoniously relieved of those duties in May. His dismissal spawned a tidal wave of discontent in Cardinals Nation.

But life is also how you deal with adversity. Sancomb has rebounded nicely.

In June, he was named head men’s hoop coach at California University of Pennsylvania. The NCAA D-II Vulcans are members of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, located less than an hour’s drive on I-70 from Wheeling.

Sancomb elevated the Jesuit program to grand heights during his 11-year tenure.

His Cardinals won the 2018 Mountain East Conference Tournament Championship after advancing to the NCAA Atlantic Region Championship the previous season. He also took the Redbirds to a No. 1 rating in the National Association of Basketball Coaches poll.

The Maryland native has also earned conference and region coach of the year honors. He was a sparkling 216-115 at Jesuit.

The classy Sancomb spews no WJU bitterness. Rather, he is excited about his new challenge. He replaces Kent McBride who stepped down after two losing campaigns.

“This is a great place (Cal., Pa.). I could not believe how gorgeous the campus was when they gave me a tour during my interview,” Sancomb said. “The athletic facilities are amazing. Our basketball arena is second to none. It holds 6,200 and is a $60 million facility.

“The administration is tremendous. The president has been here for some 38 years and the athletic director for 24. There is a lot of continuity and stability here. They want successful programs and I plan on giving them one.”

To that end, Sancomb’s first order of business was to build a roster. His relentless efforts have yielded a full squad.

“We have been going non-stop since the middle of June filling out the roster. We only had seven returning players. We got lucky with some nice players late in the game,” Sancomb said. “Brent (Pegram) played for me at Jesuit last year and decided to come. We also landed a transfer from Rutgers. He is 6-5 but we just need to get him in shape.

“We are allowed to keep 14 players and that is what we have. We flipped the roster. Last year Cal had six seniors. This year we have just one. But we have a very nice young core. We have six freshmen and sophomores who can play.”

Since he is new to all but one of his players, his preseason workouts have taken on a new look. Sancomb has become more hands-on.

“At Wheeling Jesuit we were on the same page, so my coaches and players knew the workouts. We could divide up in groups without me having to oversee everything,” Sancomb said. “Now, I have to be hands-on with our players so they get to know me and know what I want. I am teaching the stuff I love. It has rejuvenated me.

“We know we have our work cut out for us right now. We are in a very good conference. We want to get better every day. The big thing is to change the culture and the wins will follow. We are going to be a blue-collar team that works extremely hard every day.”

In addition to a new job that he relishes, Sancomb realized another bright spot coming from his WJU exodus.

“The support from the Wheeling community has been fantastic. People stopped by the house and sent letters,” Sancomb said. “So many of my former players reached out to me. I can’t say enough about the support that came my way. It was special.”

Sancomb and his family will continue their residence in Wheeling.

BUBBA’S BITS

∫ Former multi-sport standout James Cowart is now an assistant football coach with Westinghouse High from Pittsburgh. Cowart was back at his alma mater last Saturday as the two teams met on the gridiron.

∫ Two Steelers bits: The release of Landry Jones may be one the team regrets. He was as a reliable backup QB as there was in the league. Meanwhile, Le’Veon “No Show” Bell says this will be his last season in Pittsburgh. That being the case, the Steelers need to give him 30-40 touches a game. There is no need for the team to preserve his body.

∫ The Ohio Valley Basketball Coaches Association clinic is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 23 from noon-6 p.m. at Finnegan Fieldhouse on the campus of Franciscan University in Steubenville. Presenters that day will be Joe Wallace of Franciscan; Ben Howlett of West Liberty; Travis Schawb of Muskingum University; Dave Wojcik of TMPW Explorers AAU and former D-I college coach and Danny Sancomb of California of Pa. Registration will be held from 11 a.m.-noon. Cost of the clinic is $20 per coach. A head coach can bring his staff for $40 if paid by Sept. 15. For more information, call either Mike Granato at 304-670-1960 or Mike Haney at 740-317-0210.

∫ The Duane Powell Memorial Scholarship Fund Steak Fry is set for Saturday, Sept. 22 at the Wheeling Island Marina Shelter. Dinner runs from 6-8 p.m. with entertainment beginning at 8 p.m. Cost is $20. For more information, call the Martins Ferry Chamber of Commerce at 740-633-2565. The steak fry helps to fund scholarships for Martins Ferry and Bellaire softball players. Powell is an OVAC Hall of Fame basketball and football official.

∫ I look for the Cleveland Browns to win six or seven games this season. It’s not the playoffs but it is a major step forward. John Dorsey will build a winner on the lakefront.

∫ Kudos to Dr. Gregory Merrick for putting together another amazing Cancer Research Classic lineup. The CRC’s 12th edition, set for Jan. 4-5, may be the best collection of prep talent yet. The relocation to WesBanco Arena is an off-the-charts great move.

∫ Kudos also go out to Jason Willis of John Marshall and Chas Yoder of Martins Ferry. Both rookie head coaches have their respective grid teams off to 3-0 starts.

Bubba Kapral can be reached via email at: bkapral@timesleaderonline.com