On the surface, the idea of Tim Fusina spending his winters in chilly Southwest Pennsylvania as opposed to the beaches and warmth of Southern California is a drastic change. While the move will still be quite an adjustment for Fusina— who’s moving more than 2,000 miles away from his home for the past two years— the offer to become the head men’s basketball coach at Waynesburg University gave the Charleroi native an opportunity to return to his roots.
“It’s always been in my mind [Pennsylvania is] where I eventually wanted to end up,” Fusina, who graduated from Geibel Catholic High School in 2004 and California University [PA] in 2007, said. “Back near my home, back near where my parents are, my brother, my best friend. Back where the people that I care about are. So it’s been something that I’ve wanted to accomplish. I’m just very fortunate to be in Waynesburg.”
The university hired Fusina last week, ending a three-month search to replace Mark Christner, who departed to take the head women’s basketball coaching position at Calvin College in April. He comes to Greene County after six years of NCAA Division III head coaching experience on both the East and West Coast. Most recently, Fusina led the men’s basketball program at California Lutheran University, located in Thousand Oaks, less than an hour from Los Angeles.
Before that, he was the head man at Centenary University in Hackettstown, New Jersey, from 2013-2017. There, he was responsible for the first two winning seasons in program history.
Before starting his head coaching career, Fusina got his feet wet in nearby Washington County. After picking up his Master of Science degree from California (PA) in 2008, Fusina became an assistant at Washington & Jefferson, where he coached until 2013. Because of his time at W&J, Fusina is familiar with the Presidents’ Athletic Conference, and grew relationships with coaches within the league. His time at W&J coincided with Christner beginning to turn Waynesburg into a winning program, and Fusina has great admiration of the man he is succeeding on the Rudy Marisa Fieldhouse bench.
“I have a lot of respect for what Coach Christner did in his time at Waynesburg,” Fusina said. “They played the game the right way. They had a lot of the same concepts that we will have in terms of a screening team that reads and reacts, and also a tough team on the defensive end. I know that when he came to Waynesburg, he was changing the environment around the program, and I think he did a great job of it.”
While Fusina feels that the schools in the PAC are overshadowed by other successful regional programs— which include Wittenberg and Mount Union— the conference still has a lot to offer at the D-III level.
“It’s great to compete in this conference, which I think is a very underrated Division III basketball conference,” he said. “I think its underrated because of some of the schools in the Great Lakes region. I think sometimes they overshadow the work that’s done in the PAC, but I believe that the PAC is a great league for men’s basketball, and it will be great to compete in it.”
Fusina will be taking over a program that’s struggled to make an impact in the PAC over the past few years. Since reaching the conference title game in 2015, the Yellow Jackets are winless in three postseason appearances, and have finished no higher than sixth in the conference standings. While Waynesburg has scuffled in recent years, Fusina will be inheriting a program that has all five of its regular starters— including leading scorer, Matt Popeck.
Fusina has already spoken with his new team, calling every player twice and texting them throughout the week. Based on those conversations, he’s excited for the young men he is going to meet when he arrives in Pennsylvania.
“I didn’t call and have set questions or write stuff down or anything like that, [I] just wanted to get to know the guys,” Fusina said. “I can tell they’re going to be a great group to work with because they all seem self-motivated, which I think is very important at the Division III level. They all want to compete. They all want to win.”
Along with trying to win as much as possible on the court, how his players fare in academics, internships and jobs in their field is important to Fusina. While at California Lutheran, Fusina’s players posted a 3.51 GPA in the classroom, and success outside of the gym is something Fusina hopes to continue at Waynesburg.
“We want to help the whole student athlete. We do worry about [basketball] a lot because it’s important. We’re competitive people, but we want to make sure our guys are developing as people as well.”
Fusina won’t have any time to waste after arriving in late July. He plans to hold practices beginning the first week of August in preparation for the team’s preseason tour in Ireland which is set for Aug. 11-21. Fusina said this trip will be essential in setting the tone for the season ahead and for the start of a new chapter for both Fusina and Waynesburg basketball.
“I think this is a huge advantage for us in terms of a first year head coach coming in and getting a chance to work with the guys almost immediately,” Fusina said. “I think is a great thing for us. I’m really looking forward to that trip where we can get to know each other on a more personal level outside of basketball.”