Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Barna hired, then fired

Covered the Trinity at Thomas Jefferson boys basketball game last Tuesday along with colleague Josh Yohe of the McKeesport Daily News. During the game, Yohe relayed an interesting story involving Ken Barna, often a popular topic of conversation on this site and the third-base coach of Canon-McMillan's 2008 PIAA Class AAAA championship team.

Yohe was kind enough to share recent stories he wrote for the Daily News. The following are excerpts from the story of Barna being hired as head baseball coach at Thomas Jefferson High School:


Daily News Staff Writer


Ken Barna is Daily News League royalty, the godfather of modern era

He has been a successful Class A minor league manager, became an
immediate hit while guiding a team in the Federation League, enjoyed
terrific stints as manager at numerous colleges and recently served as
manager Steve Bucci's right hand man during Canon-McMillan's run to the
2008 PIAA championship.

Now Barna, 55, has come upon his next baseball challenge.

Barna, who has known nothing but success during a lifetime of baseball,
is the new head coach at Thomas Jefferson.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I've wanted to be a head coach
for a while and I've reached the time in my life where my schedule
allows me to do it. It's a great situation for me."
Time to fast-forward a few paragraphs.

Barna hasn't lost his sense of humor over the years. He once was
involved in a public feud with former DNL manager Phil Martell.

According to Barna, Martell recently suggested some assistant coaches
for the TJ staff.

"But I don't think these guys Phil recommended would pass the criminal
background check," Barna said. "I think I'll pick the guys on my own."

Barna is excited about his opportunity to lead the Jaguars. He has been
involved with Bucci for many years, first at South Park and then at

Although the coaches remain close, Barna has been looking for a chance
to be the man in charge. He isn't appreciative of certain schools who
he believes have scorned him.

"(South Park athletic director) Bill Dabaldo is an (expletive)," Barna
said. "There are plenty of other athletic directors who I don't think
much of. I've dealt with a lot of schools over the years, places like
Elizabeth Forward, Yough, South Park. I don't want anything to do with
those people. Having a chance to work with (Thomas Jefferson AD) Bill
Cherpak will be great. He's a great football coach and a great athletic
director. I look forward to working with him."

Not surprisingly, Barna's stint as TJ baseball coach was short-lived.

Daily News Staff Writer
Ken Barna had big plans for the Thomas Jefferson baseball team.
Only three weeks after being named TJ’s new coach, however, Barna’s
stint has come to an abrupt end.
Barna’s comments in the Dec. 18 edition of The Daily News were not well
received by numerous members of the Thomas Jefferson administration -
to say nothing of Phil Martell and members of the Elizabeth Forward,
Yough and South Park school districts - and he has been dismissed from
the position.
“He’s gone,” Thomas Jefferson athletic director Bill Cherpak said.
TJ has once again opened its baseball coaching job and is currently
conducting a search through next Wednesday.
Cherpak said the school would like to act quickly in naming a coach
because the season starts in less than three months.
“It’s not fair to the kids to not have a coach right now so we’re going
to try and get it done pretty fast,” he said.
Multiple sources close to the situation believe comments Barna made
about Martell, his longtime nemesis, are most responsible for TJ’s
decision to look for a new coach.
Barna said last month that Martell had made some recommendations for
his new coaching staff at TJ.
“But I don’t think these guys Phil recommended would pass the criminal
backround check,” Barna said at the time. “I think I’ll pick guys on my
Barna made the comment in a light-hearted fashion and presumably was
looking for a laugh. Martell, though, was not amused and rumors have
been circulating for weeks that he is considering taking legal action
because of the remark.
The history between Barna and Martell is not pretty.
In 2004, Barna told The Daily News that, while he was still coaching in
the Daily News League, he once left Martell, a pitcher having a
horrible day, in a game for an excessive amount of time.
“I left him in the game until he cried,” Barna said in 2004.
Barna also made comments about Elizabeth Forward and Yough’s athletic
departments and used a derogatory word to describle South Park AD Bill
Although it isn’t believed Cherpak was directly responisble for Barna’s
firing, he enjoys a friendly relationship with EF AD Kerry Hetrick.
It remains unknown who TJ will peg as Barna’s successor.
Jeff Rubinsak, a DNL legend who has dabbled in coaching recently, has
already found a new job. He will assist Steve Bucci on the defending
PIAA champion Canon-McMillan baseball team.
Rubinsak had been in line to be Barna’s top assistant at TJ.
Barna was unavailable for comment Wednesday.


VCTMbrian said...

Heard all about this from someone...
Pretty wild.

Anonymous said...

I dont think they should have fired him. People are too sensitive.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately for Coach Barna, he said how he felt. On any given night, any given sport, coaches face their counterparts With absolute disgust and distain but never go public. If anyone thinks Barna is the first coach to think this way about opposing coaches or administrations, they are sadly mistaken.

Yancey Taylor said...

Hot dog Rod,

"St. Clair has beat no one who is decent. " That was a comment you made earlier in the year.

Do you consider beating up on McKeesport a decent team?

Anonymous said...

I guess this points out the differences in school districts. TJ fires their baseball coach for those comments, but Gary Cathell is still football caoch at EF after his disgusting comments about the TJ football coach last fall.

Clairton Alum said...

Hey Mike, did Yohe happen to tell you that those comments that were made to him by Ken Barna were done so off the record because Barna and Yohe are friends (or at least were friends)? Ken was having a casual conversation with Yohe and this dipsh*t goes and prints it in the daily news. Im interested to get your stance on that Mike with you being a reporter...what do you print, what dont you print? If someone came to you as a friend and was having a casual conversation about a particular subject would you violate your friends trust by writing a story about it just to sell a couple of papers? Yohe knew this was going to damage Ken's reputation and still did it. why? He wasnt being interviewed...

This is why people have such a disdain towards the media.

Anonymous said...

If Barna statements were off the record and they were published, wow, that’s one very low blow. Barna can be brash but I think if he knew he were on the record, the comments wouldn’t have been uttered.

mike_kovak said...

As someone who has been in the media since 1995, I can say without hesitation that almost every time something like this happens, the conversation is on the record and, after the article runs and the person quoted realizes how stupid they sound, that person goes to the old "that was off the record" routine.

Very rarely is that actually the case.

It's a natural reaction to being publicly embarrassed.

From a personal standpoint, I tend to make conversations on the record. Occasionally, someone will ask to go off the record. If I'm cool with that, we're off the record. If not, I tell them I don't want to talk unless it's on the record.

I rarely have to do that as most coaches, players, etc., in the area realize I'm a fair reporter. By fair, I mean I don't play favorites. I'm sure some out there would disagree.

There are also many occasions when an interview turns into a casual conversation, whether in person or on the phone. When I feel it turns casual, I quit taking notes. Off the record at that point.

As for friends, I have made a few in this business, but I stress only a few. A former boss of mine gained far too many cronies during his employment at the O-R and his stories were almost always about his friends. That always bothered me.

There are also people I like much more than others but I won't print anything I don't take notes on or was given to me confidentially.

As someone who has known Josh Yohe for years, I can say he's not the type of guy trying to ruin reputations.

Sorry, long winded.

R. Keith Taylor said...

I dont think USC hoops has anything to do with Ken Barna.

Anonymous said...

Funny that you say Yohe is reputable. Have you seen the trash that he writes in the paper? He writes about drinking and fueds...not the real story or news. He's a drama queen that needs attention and will do anything to get it. I am embarrassed that an editor would let him print such stories. I guess that's how the daily news and other papers that published it operate. Anything to sell papers.

Mike, if you think that he's a great reporter I actually lose my respect for you. By the way why are we even blogging about this? Did it happen in Wash. Co.? No! Does it affect any of us? No!

Let's all get over it and move on with our lives.

Anonymous said...

Mike puts stories on here that dont deal with wash county all the time so chill. And coach barna was the third base coach for canon mac last season. So yes it deals with wash county

Anonymous said...

I think the big question regarding Barna is what does he do now? Does Canon-Mac let him come back and rejoin the staff if he wants to coach again? Do they "blacklist" Barna? Obviously, the Barna-Bucci connection goes back many years, so will if Barna wants to come back and is rejected by the school district does Bucci then resign?

I think Barna's name is getting dragged through the mud a little too much here. The point made about Gary Cathell's comments was excellent. So Barna had some bad things to say about corrupt individuals: big deal. If he would have said the same things about Rod Blagojevich the Daily News would be calling Barna a hero. But instead because he made his comments about a few "nobodys" he gets fired and embarrassed beyond all means. For shame to the TJ community, for shame to the Daily News, and for shame to those that continue to bash Barna.

Barna Alum said...

As far as coaching legends in this area go, Ken Barna may have to be at the top of that list. Why? Well first of all, he is the only guy in the area to coach at the high school, collegiate, and professional level. He has been associated with many high schools, was the head coach at CCAC-South, an assistant at Santa Clara, and managed the Niagara Falls Mallards in the pros. He also has turned down many job offers in the collegiate and professional ranks simply because he did not want to uproot his family. So obviously TJ wasn't looking for someone that could help their baseball program. But instead they were looking for some puppet that would coach in their socialist paradise so that Bill Cherpak could be the one and only news item coming out of TJ.

Barna is all about player development and has helped many people improve their skill sets over the years. He should be treated more like a national landmark than some run-down crack house. Having played for him in my college days, I owe all of my successes to Ken Barna. He got me a D-2 scholarship and because of him I was able to play for one of the best D-2 programs in the country.

The folks over at TJ should be ashamed of themselves.

Anonymous said...

Canon-Mac has to let Barna come back if he wants to. They just won a state title (which is a big deal in the district) and Barna was a huge piece to that accomplishment. Steve Bucci should pretty much get what he wants given all that he has accomplished there in such a short period of time. So I think it is unlikely that the administration will stand in his way if he wants Barna back and Barna wants to come back.

Remember, Barna was a "volunteer" coach. He doesn't cost the district anything. To have access to one of the best baseball minds in Pennsylvania for free is too good to pass up.

Fire Krivanek said...

Ken Barna is a nice man and this whole situation is unfortunate. TJ has now hired the old coach at Central Catholic to run their ballclub. This new guy is a born loser that wasted 3 straight wonderful teams at PCC with 1st round playoff exits. He is constantly getting into fights with umpires and opposing coaches. He also curses more than any coach I have ever seen. He is a first class jerk and I hope TJ is happy with him.

Anonymous said...

If Barna's comments were off the record then why hasn't he contacted the paper or the writer following the story? I know for a fact that he hasn't. I know if I told somebody something off the record and then it was printed that cost me my job I sure as hell would be at his desk the next day. But Barna didn't do this even though he is at the Daily News every week being a carrier. Why? Because he DID say it and he DID say MAKE SURE YOU PRINT THAT after he said that.

Anonymous said...

Why did Ken Barna get fired at West Mifflin?

Anonymous said...

Ken Barna did not get fired from West Mifflin...Phil Martell and Risha let him go and then they got fired for there underhanded dealings.....if you want the facts I got them all!!!!!!

TJ Jaguar said...

Hey Fire Krivanek....

Born loser huh? Look at what he has done since being hired then come say something.

Stop Hiding behind a fake name and go up to coach Rich and say what you said to his face and see what happens tough guy!!!