Rentko calling it quits after 29 years on bench

By Jill Snowdon - Citizens' Voice

It’s hard for Jack Rentko to watch the NCAA Basketball Tournament without thinking strategy. As a basketball coach for 29 years, it’s automatic for the Nanticoke girls coach to think how he can apply new plays to help better his team.
From now on, however, Rentko is simply a fan of the game.
Rentko announced his coaching retirement Wednesday night, a month after Nanticoke ended the season with a 21-6 record.
“It’s something I’ve been kicking around because my daughter is in college now and she’ll be playing sports,” Rentko said. “And my son will be graduating college in December and I would have to miss some games and practices if I were still coaching.” Rentko’s daughter Leigh Ann is a redshirt freshman for Mansfield University’s track team. She’s also considering playing field hockey or basketball next year. His son, David, will graduate from Clemson University in mechanical engineering and his other son John Eric works in Myrtle Beach, S.C., leaving Rentko and his wife Karen with commitments that go beyond high school sports.
“I’m happy with my decision right now because it’s not basketball season, but when I watch the games on TV I’m still thinking as a coach,” Rentko said. “But I’m looking forward to visiting my kids, seeing my daughter play sports and my son graduating.”
Rentko isn’t stepping down alone. His long-time assistant, Jim Zubritski, also is retiring from coaching.
Together, they helped Nanticoke girls basketball dominate the Wyoming Valley Conference in recent years. Rentko and Zubritski along with Gary Williams, who retired from basketball last season, combined to guide Nanticoke to three District 2 Class AAA championships (1999, 2006, 2007).
“Jimmy wants to hang it up too and honestly, coaching wouldn’t be the same without him,” said Rentko, who compiled a 277-111 record at Nanticoke. “When I first took over at Nanticoke, I really wanted to coach with Jim. He coached Nanticoke boys for many years and he’s a very good fundamentalist. We were always on the same page and I really enjoyed coaching with him.”
Rentko’s coaching career began in 1980 as an assistant at Crestwood. While coaching at Nanticoke, Rentko saw six players earn Player of the Year honors from the WVC, including Heather Roback, Jen Blasi, Lauren Kurkowski, Sara Acker, Aly Byorick and Jenn Harnischfeger.
Some of his favorite coaching moments include Nanticoke’s rally against Berwick in 1998. The Trojanettes trailed by seven points with 30 seconds left in the game and managed to post a win. He’s also proud of the teams’ 48-game league winning streak that stretched from 2004-2008.
“I’m really going to miss coaching,” said Rentko who has been the Nanticoke head coach for 14 seasons and two as an assistant. “Jimmy and I are going to miss all the friendships we made with the kids. It’s always nice when they come up to you five years down the road and thank you for everything you’ve done.”

Bieski leads rebuilding of Trojans
With four new starters, the Nanticoke senior has helped team rebound after rough start.

Nanticoke Area senior Sean Bieski had to change the way he plays basketball this season.
It wasn’t that the Trojans starting point guard was doing something wrong. Rather, he had to be a little more patient while his new teammates learned to do things right.
“It’s kind of hard to play with a player as good as Sean if you don’t have experience playing basketball,” Nanticoke coach Ken Bartuska said. “He does things his own way. He tends to freelance and get off a set play or a set offense.
“It’s taken the other guys time to learn how to play with Sean.”
Bieski was in a similar situation a few years back. He inherited the starting point guard job in the latter part of his freshman season. He grew into the role with the support of upperclassmen, and had a breakthrough season as a junior when he helped Nanticoke to a 17-7 record.
But four starters from last season – Kevin Corley, Joel Fetterman, Josh Niewinski, Jesse Stine – graduated. Bieski knew their nuances and their strengths and weaknesses, allowing him to make precision passes seem routine.
“My whole career I played with those guys,” Bieski said. “I knew where they were going to be at, when they were spotting up. Everything is brand new this year and you have to start over.
“I had those guys three years with me and everything was natural.”
In their place are four new players to the lineup. Only two – Josh Olzinski and Rob Smith – saw any varsity time of merit last season.
“There are restrictions,” Bieski said. “You have to hold up your game sometimes. You have to make the right decisions. Early in the season I was forcing things. I just had to let things come to me.”
The Trojans started out roughly, losing four of their first six games including a 68-36 setback to Crestwood to kick off the season. Since then, they have won 11 of 13 and their current six-game winning streak includes a 35-29 victory over Wyoming Valley Conference Division III first-half champion GAR and a mettle-testing 63-62 win over MMI Prep.
“The big thing is experience,” Bieski said. “A lot of these guys don’t have experience, but in the second half we’re really picking it up.”
Bieski has been the catalyst to the turnaround. He is averaging 19.5 points in conference play as Nanticoke enters the week atop the Division III second-half standings. He scored his 1,000th point last week, becoming the 13th boys player in school history to do so and the first since Todd Bargella in 2000.
“He is seeing double teams all the time. He’s seeing teams doing trick defenses to him,” Bartuska said. “He always keeps his cool because if the rest of the team sees him get rattled, they have no where to go.”
Bieski, though, has discovered he does have places to go with his passes. Bartuska cited the steady progress of sophomore center Cael Evans as an example of Bieski’s growing trust in his teammates.
“This is his year to shine,” Bartuska said of Bieski. “He is our go-to guy and he has been spectacular for us.”

Times Leader - Boys Basketball Capsule

Coach: Ken Bartuska
07-08 WVC record: 9-4, 2nd Div. II; 17-10 overall
07-08 postseason: Lost 48-41 to Valley View in D2-3A quarterfinals
State classification: 3A
Key players lost: Kevin Corley, Joel Fetterman, Josh Niewinski, Jesse Stine.

Key players: Sean Bieski, 6-2, Sr.; Beau Colatosti, 6-0, Sr.; Josh Olzinski, 6-0, Sr.; Rob Smith, 6-2, Sr.; Josh Victor, 5-11, Sr.; Jarad Kmietowicz, 5-11, Jr.; Zack Morgis, 6-4, Jr.; Darian Twyman, 6-2, Jr.; Cael Evans, 6-5, So.

Outlook: Nanticoke was the surprise team last season and if the Trojans succeed this season they will be a surprise team. Bieski (14.9 ppg) is the only returning starter, while Olzinski and Smith are the only other letter winners. So there’s plenty of work to do to match last season’s record. Nanticoke will be GAR’s toughest competition in the division, but probably won’t have enough to overtake the Grenadiers.

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