YATESVILLE — Three years after falling a vote short, Jim Norris was able to secure the job on Tuesday night.
Norris was appointed the head football coach at Pittston Area by a 5-3 vote of the school board. The 2001 Pittston Area graduate will become the ninth head coach for the program that played its first game in 1966. He replaces Mike Barrett, who resigned after three years shortly after the Patriots completed a 3-7 season on Nov. 1.
“I’m excited about it,” Norris said. “This is a program that has given me a lot and I’m looking forward to returning it. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get the wheels back on track here.”
Norris was seeking that chance in December 2010, when he and Nick Barbieri, a former Pittston Area player and son of the school’s first head coach Bob Barbieri, were the finalists for the position. The board voted 5-4 against Norris that night, and then the board voted 8-1 to re-post the position. Barrett, a former assistant at Mid Valley, was hired in January 2011.
“It’s not something I changed my mind about,” Norris said. “It’s a position that I wanted. It’s a position that in the community you play a role in young men’s lives. Positive male role models are few and far between today. I’m looking forward to being that.”
Board member Bruce Knick made a motion to appoint Norris as coach. Fellow board member Joseph Kelly followed with a motion to appoint Barbieri, who spent about two decades as an assistant coach at Delaware Valley High School and was recently hired as a teacher at Pittston Area.
The board voted on Norris first. Knick, Kent Bratlee, John Donahue, Martin Quinn and Anthony Guariglia voted for Norris. Kelly, Richard Gorzkowski and Charles Sciandra voted against him. John Adonizio was absent.
With Norris capturing a 5-3 decision, no vote was necessary for Barbieri. Knick, Quinn and Guariglia were also board members in December 2010 and voted for Norris at that time. Gorzkowski was also on the board back then and voted against him.
Pittston Area has struggled on the football field since losing to rival Wyoming Area in the 2003 District 2 Class 3A championship game. The Patriots have posted just one winning season since then, going 6-5 under Dip Donato in 2008. It was also the last time Pittston Area made the postseason, losing 21-8 to Abington Heights in the D2-3A semifinals.
Norris will be Pittston Area’s fourth head coach in the eight years. He played at Lehigh University and has been an assistant coach at Pittston Area and Delaware Valley College in the past. He spent this past season as the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Mid Valley.
“What was missing in this program for a long time was a local influence that could unify a community,” Norris said. “I think that’s very important when it comes to having a successful program. I think the guys who have supported me, some of the younger alumni that were here when the program was successful, want to be part of the program again. And that’s been missing for a long time at Pittston Area.”