2004 “Penguin of the Year”: Coach Ed DiGregorio

Former Youngstown State women's basketball Head Coach Ed DiGregorio left an indelible mark on the landscape of YSU women's basketball.

For two decades, DiGregorio, a 2003 YSU Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, witnessed first hand the ups and downs of the Youngstown State University women's basketball program and for his dedication and service to the University has been named the 2004 Penguin of the Year.

In 20 seasons at the helm of the Penguin program, DiGregorio finished with a career record of 319-241, guided the Penguins through three league affiliations, an independent status, five consecutive regular-season league crowns, six 20-win seasons, including five straight years with at least 20 wins, three conference tournament titles, three trips to the NCAA Tournament, and an appearance in the second round of the "Big Dance."

Needless to say, the Penguins' accomplishments during DiGregorio's tenure are impressive. YSU, however, endured major growing pains before it was able to reap the benefits of its hard work.

With all of the honors and exceptional seasons, DiGregorio used patience and resiliency to withstand the bumps in the road during the mid 1980's and early 1990's. And during both periods of mediocrity, DiGregorio laid the foundations for future successes.

In 1983, DiGregorio took over a program which had fallen on hard times and won just 11 games the year before. After winning just seven games during his inaugural season, DiGregorio guided the Penguins to their first winning season in Division I with a 14-13 record during the 1984-85 season. The growth of the program continued and after just five seasons at the helm, DiGregorio led the Penguins to an 18-10 record during the 1987-88 campaign.

In 1993-94, the Penguins slipped to a record of 6-20, but rebounded with five straight conference titles with records of 17-11, 20-9, 23-6, 28-3, and 20-9, respectively.

In 2001-02, Youngstown State's first in the Horizon League, the Penguins were picked to finish seventh in the nine-member circuit. The Penguins quickly proved the prognosticators wrong and tied for fourth-place with an 8-8 league mark. One of DiGregorio's charges also made a quick impression on the Horizon League. Jen Perugini was named the 2002 Horizon League Newcomer of the Year as a freshman. His final campaign on the sidelines was for the 2002-03 season.

During his time in the Mid-Continent Conference, the Penguins dominated the league. DiGregorio's Mid-Con record of 98-50 is the best of any head coach in conference history as are his 140 overall wins when YSU was part of the league.

In the nine seasons Youngstown State spent in the Mid-Con, DiGregorio, who was twice named Coach of the Year, guided the Penguins to five regular season championships, six straight Mid-Con tournament championship games, three tournament championships and three appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

For seven consecutive years, the Penguins landed at least one player on the all-conference first-team while three players earned the league's player-of-the-year award. Overall, four of DiGregorio's players earned Player-of-the-Year accolades. Brianne Kenneally won the Mid-Con award twice (1998-99 and 1999-2000) while Shannon Beach (1997-98) and former assistant coach Liz (Hauger) Grzesk (1996-97) also won the award. Former standout and assistant coach Dorothy (Bowers) Collins won the Player-of-the-Year award in 1987-88 when YSU was part of the Ohio Valley Conference.

The Penguins closed the decade of the 1990's as the 31st most successful NCAA Division I women's basketball program in the nation during that time with a record of 196-90.

During the 2000-01 campaign, DiGregorio reached a coveted coaching milestone. DiGregorio earned his 300th career coaching victory with a 74-59 win over Valparaiso on Feb. 10, 2001.

Youngstown State also completed another outstanding campaign to begin the new century.
In 1999-2000, the Penguins finished with a 22-9 overall record, their fifth consecutive 20-win season, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament after winning the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament for the third time in five seasons.

For the fourth straight season, one of DiGregorio's charges received the league's Player of the Year Award. In 1999-2000, Kenneally became the first player in conference history to win the award in back-to-back seasons. Beach won the award in 1997-98 and Hauger-Grzesk was the recipient in 1996-97.

Although the Penguins' five-year Mid-Con regular-season title streak ended, they earned their third trip to the NCAA Tournament by winning the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament, and finished the season 22-9 after falling to Penn State in the first round of the tournament, 83-63.

The 1998-99 season was definitely memorable for DiGregorio. After losing all five starters from 1997-98, DiGregorio, who notched his 250th career win against Wright State, guided the Penguins to their fifth consecutive Mid Continent Conference regular season title with a 20-9 overall mark, a 10-4 league record, and was also named the league's Coach of the Year.

After a rocky start, the Penguins won 12 of their last 14 games, including a nine game winning streak, to cap the season at 20-9.

The 1997-98 campaign was undoubtedly the best season in YSU women's basketball history. Coach "D's" charges won the league championship for a fourth straight year and set a school and conference record for most wins with a 28-3 record. The Penguins, who dominated the Mid-Con with a 15-1 league mark, also set a league record with their 16-game winning streak and made their second trip to the NCAA Tournament, advancing to the second round with a 91-80 defeat of Memphis.

Over a six-season span, DiGregorio guided the Penguins to the finals of the conference tournament every year.

In 1995-96, DiGregorio, who was named the Mid-Con's Coach of the Year in 1994-95, led his team to their first ever outright conference regular season and tournament title while earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Penguins ran through the conference season with a 14-4 clip. In the tournament, the Penguins won three games, defeating Buffalo, 53-43, in the finals to advance to the NCAA Tournament.

In the first round, the Penguins drew Big Ten Conference foe, Penn State. The Nittany Lions came out and defeated the Penguins, 94-71, to end YSU's miracle season.

The 1990-91 basketball season was another banner season for YSU women's basketball as the Penguins finished with a 24-4 ledger.

DiGregorio is a 1945 graduate of Youngstown East High School and a 1951 graduate of Mount Union College. He received his bachelor's degree in education. In 1961, DiGregorio earned his master's degree from Westminster.

His coaching resume includes stints as head football, basketball and baseball coach at North Lima High School, as well as serving as principal. He was also head football and basketball coach at Youngstown East.

DiGregorio and his wife, Edie, have five children, Cheryl, James, Karen, Marilyn and the late Edward, and seven grandchildren.