Vargo is the man for the job

Franciscan University of Steubenville got it right.

It hired George Vargo to run its men’s basketball program.

The 21-year Weirton Madonna boys basketball mentor, the one with 308 victories and a 2011 West Virginia Class A state championship, now turns left instead of right when he heads to a gym.

It’s a gym that seems three times the size of the Dube Dome.

He gets to teach the game of basketball, but most importantly, the game of life to young men, not 15-year-olds trying to figure out how to go through a day passing a science test and getting that young lady to look in his direction.

The days of deflating a basketball with a six-point lead and less than 2 minutes to go in a sectional championship game are over.

It’s big boy basketball.

It’s the 30-second shot clock and officials whom he’s never seen before.

It’s road trips to New York and an actual Christmas break.

It’s no longer having to hear some basketball mom whine about the perceived lack of playing time with her son.

It’s embracing a challenge that 39 days ago he never saw coming.

It’s looking in the mirror after asking many, many friends their opinions on making the jump.

It’s more prayers than he can count asking God for direction and a peace of mind.

“Not only has George demonstrated his coaching abilities, with his six OVAC banners and West Virginia state championship win, he has spent his life developing many great citizens and giving back to his community,” said FUS Athletics Director Chris Ledyard. “That community encompasses Madonna, Weirton and the entire OVAC organization. We are looking forward to thriving with, and learning from coach Vargo.”

Vargo, a 1970 Weirton Madonna grad, like his wife, Charlotte, said he is embracing the challenge that lies ahead.

And, why not.

He is really good at what he does.

I know not every Weirton Madonna parent has thought that, but it doesn’t matter.

It sure helped the decision that longtime Madonna assistant coaches Mike Hagg and Dennis Peterson are along for the ride.

They are also really good at what they do and the Barons players will be in for a treat (although I am not sure how big of a treat they will get when running is involved).

Vargo is like a kid in a candy store right now, looking to see what he can bring to the FUS table to enhance the program.

And, that is not always about wins and losses.

Sure, those mean something because the more wins, the better chance the Barons will find a place in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference playoffs – something that has never been done.

He’s going to make the players find a new level of defensive intensity they never knew they had.

He wants them to laugh, and many times a side-splitting one is really good for the soul.

He’ll have his teams run the floor, find the man down low and have players shoot the 3.

He wants his teams to make their free throws, which helps keep a 6-point lead late in a game.

He wants his players to be upstanding members of the community, and that starts in the classroom.

He wants local kids to dot his roster.

He wants local flavor in the green-and-white.

“I’m extremely excited for the opportunity to coach college basketball, it has been a lifetime dream,” Vargo said.

How many of us actually see dreams materialize?

Vargo did.

And, one big reason – prayer.

“So, why now? Why does it happen to a 63-year-old man?” Vargo said.

“There’s always a reason for something. I really think Jesus had a pathway for me to go and maybe I can influence somebody’s life on the college level.”

He asked God for a light, a path, a vision, a way to understand the decision.

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” – Jeremiah 33:3

Vargo got all of them.

“I said yes and no to both organizations 100 times,” he said. “But, in the end, I know this is the right move. It’s obviously an upward move for me and it’s a great opportunity that I didn’t see coming.

“This has definitely been a rollercoaster ride. It’s hard for me to leave Weirton Madonna. It’s a marriage. It’s my life. I love Weirton Madonna the school and everything about Weirton Madonna.”

Vargo said once he made the decision, the world was lifted off his shoulders and he felt at peace.


Vargo brings something to the Barons they haven’t had on the sideline size Hank Kuzma – a whole bunch of experience combined with a loving competitive streak.

He is really good at giving a player a swift kick in one motion and an arm around the side in another.

It’s a great call by Ledyard.

A game-winner, so to speak.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com, followed on Twitter at @MathisonMike or heard weekday mornings from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. with Joey Klepack and from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturdays on WEIR-AM).


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