By Tom Robinson, NEPASportsNation.com
SCRANTON – The status of Ben O’Brien as the next University of Scranton women’s basketball head coach, effective Aug. 1, became official Tuesday afternoon, but O’Brien still had one more function leading the girls from Dunmore.
Competing as the LB’s, players from the Dunmore Lady Bucks team, went out Tuesday night and won the championship of the Girls High School Elite Division of the Summer Basketball League presented by Lenahan & Dempsey at Riverfront Sports. O’Brien called the shots from the sideline.
When the 46-31 victory over the Lady Knights from Scranton was over, O’Brien posed for pictures and accepted a series of thanks and wishes of good luck from those close to the Dunmore program.
His next task begins Monday.
“I think in both places, the recipe for success should be the same from the standpoint of, I think the most important thing right away, is to build relationships,” O’Brien said. “We’ll build those relationships with our players and get to know them and what makes them tick. And, then just to do the best I can to give them a great experience being part of this program. That’s all I ever tried to do at Dunmore is work really hard to provide our student-athletes with the best possible experience that they can have.”
The Lady Bucks experienced constant success during 14 seasons with O’Brien as head coach. His teams went 347-43, won 13 Lackawanna League division titles, 10 District 2 championships and won 31 of their 43 Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament games, reaching the state final in 2011 and 2019.
The Lady Royals have produced similar results, including winning the last seven Landmark Conference titles, playing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III Final Four nine times, and winning the 1985 national title.
Scranton was 58-8 in three seasons, including 27-3 and an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in 2021-22, under Nick DiPillo, who left to become an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh. Before that, they were 113-10 in four seasons under current Bucknell University head coach Trevor Woodruff. Earlier, Mike Strong retired as one of the most successful coaches in Division III history, going 713-146 in 29 seasons.
“The two best jobs, from my point of view, in the area when it comes to girls or women’s basketball are Dunmore and the University of Scranton,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien let this Dunmore team know what was coming in a video meeting Friday, but continued to work with the Lady Bucks through Tuesday’s championship game in the summer league.
“I was not looking for jobs outside the area,” O’Brien said. “Really, the only place I would leave Dunmore for was the University of Scranton. When the opportunity arose, it was something I felt compelled to pursue.”
O’Brien coached eight all-staters at Dunmore, including four-time selection Moriah Murray (Drexel) from the most recent graduating class and nationally ranked prospect Ciera Toomey (North Carolina) from the current team. Victoria Toomey, Ciera’s older sister, plays at Rider and Maddie Martin, daughter of University of Scranton executive director of athletics Dave Martin, just completed a career at New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Dave Martin’s announcement of O’Brien as the next coach was revealed in a story posted on the school’s website Tuesday morning.
“We are incredibly excited to welcome Ben O’Brien to our coaching staff,” Martin said, according to that story. “Ben has extensive head coaching experience and has been incredibly successful during his tenure at Dunmore High School.
“He has a proven track record of caring for and developing the whole person and his values align with the mission of our university.”
O’Brien has long been familiar with the basketball teams at Scranton.
“As a kid, this is where my parents used to bring me and my siblings,” he said. “We grew up coming to Royals and Lady Royals games, so it’s very much been a part of my basketball life for as long as I can remember.”
O’Brien, a Dunmore and Penn State University graduate, also taught social studies at Dunmore since 2007.
A four-time NEPABasketball.com selection as either district or division Coach of the Year, O’Brien was named state Class 2A Coach of the Year by Pennsylvania Sports Writers in 2011. Prior to becoming Dunmore’s head coach, he spent five years coaching and instructing at Hoop City, then Backcourt Hoops.
Ben O’Brien’s coaching record: Ben O’Brien: Coaching record – NEPA Sports Nation.
Summer League titles for Abington Heights boys and Dunmore girls: AH boys, Dunmore girls win titles – NEPA Sports Nation.