May 24—A few weeks after its coach resigned midseason, the Woodland Hills boys basketball team made a trip to Ringgold for a nonsection game this past winter.
Woodland Hills was on its way to a winless season and lost by 10 points. But as Ringgold’s coach that day, Eugene Wilson saw promise in the Wolverines. In fact, he saw enough to switch sides.
Woodland Hills hired Wilson as its coach Wednesday.
“It was a game that Woody High had in their sights,” Wilson said. “They didn’t win a game last year, and for a large part of that game I thought this might be their first win. They played really, really well.”
Ringgold won 53-43 on Feb. 5.
“What I saw (about Woodland Hills) wasn’t even basketball related,” Wilson added. “It wasn’t about making layups or making 3-point shots or anything like that. I saw kids who to me had the right demeanor. They had the right kind of character. Their body language wasn’t bad despite all the trials and tribulations they’d been through.”
Wilson joins Woodland Hills after one season at Ringgold, which went 5-12. Previously, he coached at Baldwin, Westinghouse and Wilkinsburg, his alma mater.
Combined, his record is 83-73 in eight seasons.
Wilson spent no more than three seasons as head coach at any of the schools but sees Woodland Hills as a place he can put down roots. He and his family live in Monroeville and he works in Penn Hills, so his commute time will be greatly reduced.
“The timing and the opportunity were hard to turn away,” he said. “I’m maybe 12 minutes down the parkway from Woody High, compared to an hour drive to Ringgold from here.”
And Wilson isn’t daunted by the winless record.
In 2016, he took over Westinghouse a year after the City League team went 1-14 and the Bulldogs won 13 games. A year later, Westinghouse finished 18-7 as the City League runner-up.
Wilson wants to oversee a similar turnaround at Woodland Hills.
“The talent has always been within the district,” said Wilson, a 1,200-point scorer at Pitt Johnstown from 1998-2003. “It comes down to people being in position to foster that talent. And not just on the court, but off the court as well because it all works together.”
On the court, he’ll try to have Woodland Hills playing fast.
The team’s new style may resemble that of Wilson’s Westinghouse teams. He’s bringing with him top assistant Jay Latimer, who’s been on Wilson’s staff since those City League days. Another assistant will be one of Wilson’s former Wilkinsburg players, Davon Moultrie.
“This was one of the two or three schools that I’ve had my eye on for the past four to five years,” Wilson said. “I’m looking at it like it was meant to be.”
Woodland Hills finished last season with assistant coaches running the team after Matt Furjanic resigned in protest in January. The Wolverines went 0-10 overall and 0-7 in Section 3-5A. The schedule was shortened because of covid-19 cancellations but the team took part in the WPIAL’s open postseason tournament.
“These guys were kind of in a precarious situation based on some of the things they went through as a team,” Wilson said. “Coming in, I want them to know they’ll have the support of the staff and myself.
“I can’t tell you how many people reached out who are either parents or boosters or just supporters of the Woodland Hills school district. I’m very excited. … I plan on being here for a very long time.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .