The Evening Observer
by Jerry Reilly
Nobles directs Pine Valley to state tournament again
There isn’t much to remember.
“I was far, far down the bench,” recalls Nobles, coach of the defending Class D state champion Pine Valley girls’ basketball team. The Panthers (22-2) will make their third straight appearance in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association tournament starting Friday at Queensbury High School. They’ll meet Haldane (22-0) at 7 p.m. in one semifinal. Salem (21-2) and Charlotte Valley (22-1) will meet at 9 p.m. The winners will play at 4:30 p.m. Saturday for the state title.
A 1976 graduate of Pine Valley, Nobles said he made the varsity team his senior year only after several other players refused to play for a new coach. “Bob Brown took over for Dick Girst, who took a sabbatical from coaching,” said Nobles. “Some guys didn’t want to play for Coach Brown. He told me I was welcome to stay out for the team but I’d never get in a game in an important situation.”
Nobles who described himself then as “kind of roly-poly,” was overjoyed just to make a team after several failed try-outs. “I said, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he said. “That was my only organized basketball.”
His coaching career has the same humble start. He began by helping Jerry Skurcenski, then the head coach of the Pine valley girls. When Skurcenski left to take a job at Jamestown Community College for the 1980-81 season. Nobles was given the option of becoming a head coach of one of three Pine Valley teams—the girls varsity, the boys junior varsity, or boys junior high team. “Jerry recommended I take the girls job, that I couldn’t go wrong if I did,” said Nobles.
It turns out Skurcenski was right, and not just because the team has won a string of championships. Nobles also gained a wife. Teresa Nobles, a former player, is now a Panther assistant coach. Blessed with outstanding players in his 12 years as coach, Nobles has molded them into winning teams. He feels his strong suit as a coach is preparation — a quality he inherited from two other members of his staff.
He credits Skurcenski — now his assistant — with teaching him the Xs and Os, and credits team trainer Doug Zanghi, a former Pine Valley varsity coach, with showing him how to run a successful organization.
“It’s ironic. I’m the head coach. The guy I learned the game from is one of my assistants now. My wife Teresa learned the game from Jerry too. And Doug, who taught me how to organize is my trainer. Kim Stankey (back injury) has been a wreck this season, but Doug has helped her through it.
“So it’s not just what I do, it’s not just good players, but it’s like Jerry says. Everybody brings something to the table. It’s turned into a feast at times.”