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Wysocki: Bob Rager and Point Park basketball deserve a wider audience

They are like the other Baldwin brothers nobody gives roles to. But unlike Billy and Stephen Baldwin, the Pioneers have talent.

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Head coach of the Point Park Pioneers men’s basketball team is probably the toughest coaching gig to get in Pittsburgh.

Since 1989 only one person has held that job — Bob Rager. In the history of college basketball in the city, Rager’s 368 wins (and counting) are the most for a coach at a four-year university. A victory this season over Villa Maria (which sounds like a pizza place, not a college) put him ahead of former Pitt coach Doc Carlson, who recorded his 367th win in 1953. Rager played basketball at Point Park after growing up in the housing projects of Munhall. 

Point Park plays in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference — seems logical, I suppose. The conference includes nearby Carlow University, as well as schools from Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. There are also a couple of schools whose names sound very misleading. Two worth noting are Indiana University Kokomo and the University of Rio Grande, in Ohio. Wait, there really is such a place as Kokomo? For some reason, I don’t think it is the place the Beach Boys wanted to go, unless Indiana has a tropical paradise I don’t know about. And everything is kind of weird in Ohio, including the pronunciation of Rio Grande; there, it is pronounced “Rye-O” Grande. I’m certain that is never confusing.

Mike Wysocki - PHOTO BY HEATHER MULL
  • Photo by Heather Mull
  • Mike Wysocki

So far this season, Rager’s Pioneers are off to a decent start, winning six of their first 10 games. Recently they crushed Penn State Fayette by 53 points, giving branch-campus students another reason to unfairly feel inferior. Seven players scored in double digits, a testament to the bench depth that Rager has amassed. Jerah’me Williams, a Youngstown native, just ended a streak of 37 straight double-digit games. There is a lot of firepower in this uptempo offense. Senior guard and Slippery Rock transfer Kelvin Goodwin was the conference player of the week and is averaging more than 23 points a game, second in the KIAC. Plus, his 6.4 assists per game ranks 10th in the entire country. That’s a pretty formidable backcourt, but it’s not the Pioneers’ only point of strength. Up front, Art Christian, T.J. Lanier and Fousseini Konate all start, with Sa’lid Allen, Yandell Denis and Lassana Konate rounding out the eight-man rotation.

It’s no secret that the Pioneers don’t get the attention of the other basketball teams in town. They are like the other Baldwin brothers nobody gives roles to. But unlike Billy and Stephen Baldwin, the Pioneers have talent. If the team gets too confident, coach Rager’s humble local beginnings will quickly put them back in their place. 

The Pioneers play their home games in West Mifflin, at the Community College of Allegheny County’s south campus, and ticket prices will not be a concern. PPU still has two home games in the month of December. On Dec. 3, it hosts Washington Adventist University — a small Seventh Day Adventist college. That game is scheduled to take place unless, of course, the world ends before then. On Dec. 5, the much-hated Alice Lloyd College comes to town. Hopefully, the team will be sent shamefully back home to Pippa Passes, Ky., following a big-city beat-down. 

So if gambling on KIAC men’s basketball is your thing, bet on Bob Rager. Nobody in this town has won more than him.


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