By Elisabeth Mistretta
CONNELLSVILLE — Geibel Gator student-athletes are always ready for a new challenge, and so is the man leading them.
After his first season as the Geibel Catholic Junior-Senior High School boys basketball coach, Donald Porter Jr. is taking on a new role as the school’s athletic director — while continuing as coach.
Porter, a graduate of Greensburg Central Catholic High School, says his 30 years of experience in coaching and scheduling teams have helped create a smooth transition into his director position. He has been involved with basketball at area schools throughout his career, and is the founder and commissioner of the Westmoreland County Elementary School Basketball League.
His newest initiative as director is implementing the Golden Gator awards, an honor he developed to emphasize school pride.
“I think sports is an important part of the high school experience overall, and I wanted to create a way to get as many kids as possible interested in excelling both in athletics and the classroom,” he said.
Any student who letters in three sports throughout the year and simultaneously maintains a 3.5 GPA or higher is eligible for the honor. Two coaches and three teachers must endorse them. Students who are named Golden Gators will have their names inscribed on a banner hung in the gymnasium. The senior student among the honorees who has the highest GPA will earn a $300 college scholarship, he said.
“I think it’s great that they could walk in years from now and show their spouses or children that they were part of a history here at Geibel,” Porter said. “To maintain three sports and such a high GPA is an impressive task.”
As interest in the program grows, Porter hopes financial support for the scholarship will also grow.
Porter has high expectations for several 2019-20 Geibel Catholic teams based on their recent seasons — boys golf, which boasts two strong all-state players, and girls golf, a new endeavor at Geibel.
Porter says boys soccer could be a playoff team, and boys basketball boasts four returning starters and five of the top six players (one who is a 1,000-point scorer and another who is poised to be). The basketball team was 11-11 overall, finished third in the section with a 7-5 record to advance to the WPIAL Class A playoffs.
“My commitment is to return Geibel to the glory days that I remember throughout the ’70s and ’80s, where they were winning a lot of basketball championships,” he said. “I think that is possible throughout our sports program.”
Porter is a parishioner of St. Pius X Parish, Mount Pleasant, where he lives with his wife of 27 years, Rebecca. They have two adult children.