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Good Guys Do Finish First

It is amazing what is accomplished in the world of sports from folks that call the West Branch Valley home. It just seems to get better and better with each passing season. I can guarantee you there’s no place in the world there has ever been a head basketball coach record their 1,000th win and then the Major Leaguer from across the creek elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. This occurring in a four-day span. Unbelievable! I think it’s safe to say, not just because of these two people, but for all that goes on in our area in the arena of sports — we have become the Small-Town Americana Sports Capital of the World. Their accomplishments are just the cherry on top.

In case you haven’t heard, Loyalsock Head Basketball Coach Ron Insinger recorded his 1,000th win against rival Hughesville. Before I even had time to pen that column Montoursville’s very own, Mike Mussina became our area’s first player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Two extraordinary accomplishments by great members of our local community. So this week we will honor CI, next week we will pay tribute to former Baltimore Oriole and New York Yankee pitcher Mike Mussina. In between Coach Mussina will bring his basketball Warriors to the Township to play CI’s Lancers. A Hollywood writer of sports fiction couldn’t make this stuff up.

CI’s wife Carol has been the official scorer for the Lancers during his run to a thousand wins. She has always had a bag of hard candy at the scorer’s table to share with anyone who would like to take a piece or two. Coaches, players, referees, anyone needing a little sweet fix. What a great gesture that has been over the years.

I’ve been blessed to help myself to that candy as a player, a fan, a coach, a parent of a player, a broadcaster, but most importantly as a friend to the Insinger family. No coach has ever been loved and supported more by his family than CI. Carol, daughters Laurie and Lisa, their spouses Ronnie and Mark along with five grandchildren live Lancer Basketball. They are special people, and it all begins with the Head Coach of the family.

CI began his run in 1974, a believer in the philosophy of legendary UCLA Coach John Wooden. He actually got the chance to spend some time with Coach Wooden. He was hired at the Township by Principal Alfred Knecht and Athletic Director and football Coach Ken Robbins, who is also another West Branch Valley legendary coach. I was fortunate to play for CI when he recorded victory number 200 and for Coach Robbins when he hit the 100 win mark.

A little before CI’s time Mr. Barry Boyer began his career as a Loyalsock educator and coach. He is one of the true gentleman and good guys in our area. Coach Boyer and CI went back and forth on who would be the boy’s basketball coach as Coach Boyer’s plate was already full and CI was coaching the girl’s team at the time. The rest of the story is history. Coach Boyer has been by the side of CI during the whole journey. He is the only assistant coach to have won a thousand games.

CI’s journey is an amazing one; he has recorded 1002 victories, 284 losses for a winning percentage of .780. But more important than the wins is the way he has approached every day during his tenure.

To say he views the glass half-full is an understatement. He is one of the most positive people I know that always finds the good in the person or situation. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him speak negatively about anyone, and that includes officials. He always finds the positive.

His door is always open. And I’m not just talking about his coach’s office. He has helped more people in his quiet way than anybody will ever know. He supports local sports, business, and people. He is a champion of District 4 athletics and beyond. He not only puts his time in but his money where his mouth is. And that’s probably the wrong phrase to use because he never says much about anything he does.

In a recent conversation, he was so very proud of the 1,000 wins being a school and community accomplishment. That begins with great players and all those that have helped and contributed to the program. “My players have won a thousand games,” CI noted.

He was quick to praise current Assistant Coach Jeff Everett. “I don’t know what I would do without him. He is one of the best Xs and Os guys going, who knows and understands the game of today. He understands the latest trends and is a young guy that can play against and challenge the players in practice. He’s a great fit with the players of today, and will make a great head coach one day.” He continued, “9th grade Coach Lynn Datres is the master of the fundamentals. He does a great job getting the players ready for the varsity level. He approaches the game and people with the utmost loyalty and respect.

“Ryan Cioffi and Randy Glunk take care of things at the middle school level. Both played for me. Randy being the school’s all-time points leader with 2,000. They do a great job on the basketball court, but more importantly, they are individuals you want your players to model themselves after. I’m very proud of the job they do!” Coach Cioffi has been with CI for almost ten years.

Last but not least we cannot forget Assistant Varsity Coach Ronnie Emery who just happens to be CI’s son-in-law. He just moved up to the varsity level a couple of years ago. “He was a mainstay in developing the kids at the middle school and 9th-grade level. He is also a former Lancer player. Ronnie is an outstanding coach; I don’t know what I would have done without him over the years. He has coached wherever I’ve needed him and done a great job.”

CI also wanted to mention school superintendent Jerry McLaughlin who had been an assistant coach for ten seasons until accepting the duties of superintendent. “Jerry does a great job for the school district at everything he does. I have appreciated his support each and every day. He has a great basketball mind.”

CI finished with a tip of the cap to former coaches Scott Star and John Young. “Scott and John each gave 15 years to Lancer basketball and were a key to the success of the program. I am just so fortunate to have had so many great people help out over the years.”

The last three folks we talked about are very near and dear to CI’s heart. First stop Pedie McDonald, a fixture in the Township for all sporting events, especially for basketball. He assists the team in all manners possible. No manager/assistant coach has been involved in more winning games than Pedie. Dana Williams who left us for a better place a couple of years back, was on the Lancer sideline all the way back to when I played. Dana let his love for Loyalsock and the basketball program be known by gifting the school $250,000. And finally, Dan Timmons who was a player and is a great supporter.

The family CI has built through Lancer basketball over the years is truly special. The fact that he has done it for over 44 seasons at one school, winning over a thousand games will never be seen again.

Congratulations CI to you and your family. I’m proud to be part of it; could you please just let me know where that Fountain of Youth is?

God Bless America.

Jim Webb

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