Ever since Matt Rotonda stepped foot on the Penn State York campus back in 2011, he felt like he'd found a new home.
A New Jersey native, Rotonda played two seasons for the local Lions under head coach Parrish Petry. After graduating with his Penn State degree, Rotonda worked for a year as a volunteer assistant at PSY before being elevated to a paid assistant under Petry a season later.
All of the time spent with Petry — at PSY as well as at Ballyhoo Sports Academy — made Rotonda a logical choice to take over at PSY when the York Sports Night Hall of Famer decided to call it a career with the local Lions.
“This is my sole focus,” said Rotonda, who is no longer at Ballyhoo, either. “And it’s nice not to be pulled in both directions.”
There was no learning curve necessary for Rotonda, who spent his freshman year at York College. After the local Lions won the Penn State University Athletic Conference title a season ago in Petry’s final campaign, the PSY men’s team is off to another strong start this season at 4-2 overall and 1-0 in the PSUAC.
Rotunda is satisfied with where his team is at this early in the season.
“So far so good,” Rotonda said. “We’re getting contributions from players at every position, every class and all different pieces of it. We’re working through it game by game.”
While Rotonda may be a first-year head coach, his expectations for the program are still fully aligned with those that Petry espoused during his 10 years at the helm — win championships.
“Coming off a conference championship, our expectation is to be one of the final two teams playing at the end of the season,” Rotonda said. “And that ought to be our expectation because we have the team to make a repeat run at it this year.”
Perhaps the biggest change for Rotonda will be when he starts recruiting next season. Previously, he was able to count on telling potential recruits that they would be playing for a legendary coach in Petry. It was a sizable hook to entice them into the program.
“Parrish has such a great track record of success,” Rotonda said. “When you compare our resumes, there’s a big difference. But I’m working on it, so we’ll see. Hopefully, opportunity and time helps me catch up a little bit.”
►Rotonda’s team is coming off an unusual weekend.
Scheduled to play at Penn State Shenango this past Saturday at 2 p.m., the officials for the contest were under the impression that the contest was slated for a 7 p.m. tip-off.
After attempts were made to find replacements, the contest was postponed when it became clear that wouldn’t happen. As a result, PSY will now host Shenango on Jan. 10 for the make-up game.
►One bit of exciting news for PSY is a contest scheduled for Dec. 30 at UMBC. That would be the same UMBC squad that upset No. 1 seeded Virginia two years ago in the NCAA Tournament. Rotonda noted that it is the first time ever that the PSY program will take on an NCAA Division I school.
While the contest is technically an exhibition game for Rotonda’s squad, he will be coaching it like any other game.
“It certainly will go down as win if we win in my book,” he said with a laugh. “I know that I’m counting it if we win.”
►PSY is coming off a 74-68 nonleague loss to Central Penn on Tuesday night.
The local Lions couldn't hold on to a 30-27 halftime lead.
Joey O'Dwyer led PSY with 22 points, while Northeastern High School grad Michael Coleman added 16 points and six rebounds.
For the season, PSY's leading scorer and rebounder is Susquehannock grad Richard Grant. The 6-foot, 6-inch senior is averaging 16.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Coleman, a 6-4 senior, is averaging 14.0 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
Johnathon Gillespie, a 6-foot sophomore, is averaging 12.5 points per game, while O'Dwyer, a 6-4 senior, is averaging 12.3 points per contest.
PSY's next game is 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3, at home vs. Penn State Schuylkill.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.