By Preston Byers
Ed DiGregorio, the Youngstown State University women’s basketball coach with the most wins in program history, died April 5 at age 93.
Hired by former athletic director and personal friend Joe Malmisur in 1983, DiGregorio coached the Penguins for 20 years, winning a school-record 320 games in that time. His team qualified for the NCAA tournament three times, and he was named Mid-Continent Conference Coach of the Year twice, in 1995 and 1999.
But his accomplishments aren’t the first thing people who knew him will bring up. DiGregorio was, by all accounts, a kind and giving person who treated his team like family.
Greg Gulas, a YSU alumnus and former sports information director, met DiGregorio in 1983 when he was interviewed for the women’s head coaching job. Gulas said he knew DiGregorio was the right person for the position.
Gulas also said DiGregorio was the most giving coach he’d ever been around.
“We used to take two buses — one for the women and one for the men,” Gulas said.
“The men would get some meal money. And I was basically attached to the men’s team,” he added. “But I always traveled with the women’s program because Coach DiGregorio made sure he’d have a box of apples, a box of oranges, three or four pounds of meat, three or four pounds of cheese, fresh bread and some dessert. So his team, not only did they travel in style but they ate in style.”
On the court, DiGregorio’s teams were some of the most successful in program history. When he took over the program in 1983, DiGregorio was the third head coach in as many years and in the year before, the team finished 11-16.
After a 7-17 season in 1983-84, the worst in program history to that point, the Penguins improved to 14-13 the following year. DiGregorio’s teams floated around the .500 mark until 1990-91, when YSU finished the season with a 24-4 record and a perfect 13-game home record.
After joining the Mid-Continent Conference in 1992, the Penguins enjoyed some of their greatest success. In the 1990s, YSU won five consecutive Mid-Continent Conference regular season titles and three conference tournament championships. The latter of these clinched YSU’s spot in the NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Tournament.
While YSU would be unsuccessful in its first NCAA tournament game against Pennsylvania State University in 1996, the Penguins qualified again in 1998 after a 27-2 season. This remains the best season in school history.
As a No. 12 seed, YSU won its first — and only — NCAA tournament game by upsetting the University of Memphis, which had qualified for the national tournament four straight seasons. The Penguins would lose to eventual semifinalists North Carolina State University in the second round, but DiGregorio’s legacy was secured with the win against Memphis.
After coaching more than 500 YSU games, DiGregorio retired in 2003. Thr same year, he was inducted into the YSU Athletics Hall of Fame.
Even in retirement, DiGregorio supported the program he had helped build, according to John Barnes, the current YSU head women’s basketball coach.
“He always asked if I needed anything or if he could help in any way,” Barnes said. “So many people loved him around here and thought so highly of him. He was just a great guy.”