JFK finds familiar face to lead program

John C. Richards sat inside the Campbell Memorial Field House, catching his first glimpse of John F. Kennedy boys basketball.

That was 1981.

The 1994 JFK graduate was influenced by former Eagles coaches Dennis Jasinski and Denny Rossi, along with former assistants and head coaches Shawn Pompelia and John Condoleon.

Tuesday night, JFK announced Richards would be the newest Eagles coach, according to Jillian Phillips, director of communications and advancement.

“The kids needed a coach. I love the school. I’ve grown up around the program,” the rookie coach said.

He replaces Pompelia, who was relieved of his duties in mid-April after four seasons.

Richards was on staff with Pompelia during both tours of duty with the Eagles. Pompelia went 47-21 in his first go round with JFK, which lasted through the 2006-07 season.

Along with Richards, Sam Procopio, Steve Zolciak and Stephen Procopio – all JFK graduates – are on the staff. Sam and Stephen were on staff with Pompelia last season.

Randy Rair, assistant superintendent of the Youngstown Diocese, was part of the search committee for a new coach.

“It was important to the search committee that we had a strong coaching staff that had JFK ties,” said Richards, who decided to apply in early June. “Obviously it’s good to have some familiarity with the boys and the program. I think stability is a plus and a key. I think stability is a good thing to have in this situation. With Kennedy people on board, the Kennedy family stays intact.”

Former JFK?standout Chad Phillips will not return as an assistant, but Richards said he’ll be part of the program going forward.

Phillips kept the team together while JFK sought a new coach through plenty of changes in the Eagles athletic and academic realms, including school president Brian Sinchak leaving.

“We have not been involved with the program,” Richards said. “Chad has been working with the kids. They’ve played in the Harding summer league. I know they went to Hiram for a shootout. We were not involved with any of that.”

JFK, which lost to Windham in a Division IV sectional final, returns nine seniors – including point guard Preston Caparanis, Zackary Usher (6 feet 7) and James Burney (6-3) to name a few. All but one is at least 6-0. The Eagles only lost Eric Bofenkamp to graduation.

“Obviously we want to rely on our seniors. That’s a great quality to have, that many seniors,” Richards said. “We want to take advantage of our athleticism, our skill. I think we have some length. We want to get up and down the floor. I think these kids play better that way.

“Be creative on the defensive end, but we definitely want to push the tempo. There’s some skill and some athleticism. There’s some talent to put the ball into the hole. There’s a good compliment of bigs and guards, too.”

Richards’ biggest compliment comes from his own family. He and his wife, Jillian, have two children, Hannah (2) and Zachary (9 months) and are expecting another boy in September.

“She is my biggest supporter,” Richards said. “Couldn’t do this, obviously, without her. We’re fortunate that both of our families are close and in town.

“It’s just like our coaching staff, strong support system.”