By Josh Rizzo | TribHSSN
Harry Jenkins’ time with Fox Chapel didn’t end when he stepped down as the boys varsity basketball coach in 2005. Jenkins wanted to find a way to keep the program moving forward and bring together players from different communities.
Working with the school, Jenkins formed a four-man league for alumni and kids who wanted to play throughout the summer at the high school. One of the players who participated in the league was Zack Skrinjar, who has been the varsity basketball coach at Fox Chapel for 15 seasons and was a Central Catholic student at the time.
Jenkins, who died Wednesday, was always looking for opportunities to keep kids involved with sports and the community.
“I played in the league probably about three summers,” Skrinjar said. “There were a lot of fun times. When I became the coach at Fox Chapel, he would text me and send me a lot of text messages with encouraging messages.”
Jenkins, who just completed his 10th season as an assistant coach at La Roche, led Fox Chapel to 14 playoff appearances, two section titles and two WPIAL finals appearances during a coaching career that spanned from 1980-2005.
Jenkins finished with 316 wins.
Ronnie Urso, a 1978 Fox Chapel graduate, had Jenkins as a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Dorseyville Middle School. Urso was a member of the 1977 WPIAL and state championship team at Fox Chapel.
Jenkins had previously served as a varsity assistant and coach of the freshman team.
“He went under the radar,” Urso said about Jenkins. “For all he did, he was humble. He was never a bragger. He was a great example for everybody.”
Jenkins played collegiately at Edinboro and also was an assistant for three years with the Carnegie Mellon women’s team. He was the interim head coach at La Roche for two years before becoming an assistant.
Urso said that Jenkins was an effective communicator and wasn’t someone who needed to raise his voice.
That skillset, Urso believes, is what made him an effective assistant and recruiter at the college level.
“I think he learned that from his time at college playing at Edinboro,” Urso said. “He had to learn to work with the personalities of other kids and coaches. He was able to transfer that experience into his next chapter in life. He never thought he knew everything. He was open to listening.”
La Roche men’s basketball coach Hermie Carmichael tweeted Wednesday about his respect for Jenkins.
“Thank you Harry Jenkins for 15 great years with me at Laroche,” Carmichael tweeted. “This guy coached for over 50 years. Most will never know how many Ws and Ls he had but ALL know that he and Barb dedicated over 50 years to other peoples kids and making them better people. The Best!! #sacrifice”
Skrinjar had just seen Jenkins last Saturday. After hearing the news, he was going through his phone to read some of the text messages Jenkins sent him.
Jenkins felt a duty to be part of the “old guard” with Fox Chapel basketball. The advice Skrinjar received from Jenkins was always welcome.
“He would always tell me that you have to do it the way you think is best for the program,” Skrinjar said. “All the conversations we had were encouraging. He had nothing to say but good things.”