Ken Misiak (2014)
Ken Misiak is a basketball lifer, a player in high school and college and a longtime high school coach.
“My whole like has been wrapped up in basketball,” Misiak stated. “I have a lot of people to thank for that. They gave me the opportunity to coach and I’ve enjoyed all the years of coaching.
Misiak played his high school basketball at Uniontown under the legendary Abe Everhart. He came up from the Jayvee squad for the start of the 1952-53 season. He garnered honorable mention All Section Two honors as a senior.
“Misiak graduated from Uniontown in 1954 and seemed destined to play at Wabash College in Indiana.
“I had a chance for a scholarship at Wabash,” Misiak remembered. “I went for a visit and when I got there it was a bigger place than I anticipated. I was discouraged, my parents came and I said take me back.
“One of my teachers at Uniontown had a sister on the board at Bethany. We stopped on the way back and I loved the place and wound up going there.
“We had a pretty good freshman team in basketball and I started most of the games my sophomore and junior seasons. When I became a senior it came down to student teaching and I decided to take my student teaching in the first semester and didn’t go back.”
Misiak had started working for the Uniontown Recreation Department in 1956 and that led to his first and what ended being his only teaching and coaching job.
“Bus Albright the head of the Uniontown Recreation Department, told me that a friend of his was looking for a coach at Connellsville Immaculate Conception,” Misiak recalled. “I went down and interviewed. The salary was $3,000 for teaching and $300 for coaching basketball and baseball.
“The funny thing was they didn’t tell me they didn’t have a gym or a baseball field. We played at Connellsville High School and also at the Armory Hall. We practiced at a South Connellsville grade school. It was a tough job because I had hunt for a place to play and practice. But we persevered.”
Misiak had a summer job working on the playgrounds in Uniontown.
“I started at the playgrounds in 1956,” Misiak said. “I worked with someone who knew it better than I did at that particular time, Ruby Laskey and also Mr. Albright. He retired and I ran the Uniontown Recreation Department through the late 1960’s the ‘70’s, ‘’80’s, ‘90’s and retired in 2003. We kept the programs going and it was tough, but I really enjoyed that job.”
Misiak started building an outstanding program at IC and Geibel.
“I’m fortunate I was married to a person who enjoyed every game and the same thing with my daughter,” Misiak stated. “I had good kids, I had a school that believed in me at that particular time.
“We were successful and I wanted to put the school on the map, and along came my assistant coach Bob Fedorko and we were together for 40 some years and succeeded in putting our little school on the map.”
Misiak took every opportunity to learn his craft along the way.
“I can remember sitting at Bailey Park one evening and there on the curb with me was Abe Everhart, Lash Nesser and Horse Taylor,” Misiak recalled. “Probably at that particular time you couldn’t have four better coaches, but I always listened and learned.”
The learning paid big dividends as Misiak fashioned an outstanding coach resume.
In 49 seasons at IC and Geibel when the school opened in 1964, Misiak’s career record was 734-359. His crowning achievement was leading the Gators to a PIAA Class A championship in 1978. Misiak’s teams made the playoffs in 27 of the 31 years Geibel competed in the WPIAL. He is only the fifth coach in Pennsylvania history to win 700 games. His Gators captured WPIAL titles in 1978 and 1980.
The 1976-77 season couldn’t have ended on a more disappointing note than it did for Geibel’s boy’s basketball team. A four-overtime loss to Shanksville-Stonycreek in the PIAA Class A semifinals was followed by a loss in the consolation final, last year the game was played. But Misiak saw something in the players returning from the disappointing losses that gave him a good feeling about the 1977-78 season.
“In the year before, after the four-OT loss, I just had the feeling then the nucleus for another year was there,” remembered Misiak. “It’s an amazing thing to go undefeated in a state championship team.”
The team jelled to win the 1978 PIAA Class A title with a 26-0 record.
“The state team was the highlight,” Misiak said. “I had that feeling they’d go back. They all had different personalities, but they seemed like a team that jelled together. Each one took his turn, even the guys on the bench. I’m very proud of them.”
Misiak’s coaching career at Geibel ended with a phone call when he was told he would not be retained as coach for the 2008-09 season.
“The main thing was the way it was handled,” Misiak said. “I was never told anything was wrong. I was never called into anyone’s office saying this or that was wrong. I got a phone call. I was hurt by the way it was handled.”
Misiak, 77, resides in Uniontown with his wife of 55 years, Barbara, they have one daughter Jamie. Misiak recently was elected to the 2014 class of the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame, which will be inducted June 21.
“I was shocked, but I was very proud to be elected,” Misiak said. “You’re humble when you are doing this and when you start coaching you don’t look for awards. You just want to get started and put a winning program together. This is just like icing on
In looking back Misiak related his proudest moment.
“The first happy moment is that first kid who walks up to you and calls you coach,” Misiak said. “You have to have that feeling.”