WEIRTON — Sometimes, you just know when the time is right.
Mike Granato knew it was time.
After 21 successful years as Weir High’s head boys’ basketball coach and 38 years of coaching all told, Granato came to the realization that it was time to step away from the coaching realm.
“I have loved my time coaching, both at Bishop Donahue and the last 21 years at Weir,” Granato said. “I was very fortunate to do what I wanted to do at the place where I wanted to do it. Not many people get that opportunity.
“It was great to be able to coach in your hometown. It can be crazy at times but it is also very rewarding,” he added. “Weir is a great place to coach and teach. In my 21 years here, I never had a negative conversation with a board of education member about Weir High basketball.”
After graduating Weir High, Granato went on to Bethany College. He served as student-assistant coach to Jim Dafler in the 1981-82 campaign. The Bison won the PAC championship that year and advanced to the NCAA Regional Tournament in Virginia.
After picking up his Bethany sheepskin, Granato landed teaching/coaching positions at Bishop Donahue. He served as head girls’ basketball coach (which then was played in the fall), assisted Tom Tribett with the boys’ team in the winter and coached the school’s baseball team.
“Bishop Donahue was a great experience with special people. Donahue gave me the chance to wear many hats,” Granato said. “I taught there 16 years and coached there for 12. The last four years at Donahue, I was varsity assistant to Jack Kostur with the Weir High boys.”
Granato experienced impressive success at the McMechen-based school. His girls’ hoop team won the OVAC championship during the 1984-85 school year. That same year, he helped Tribett guide the Bishop boys to the Class A state championship. He was also the Donahue head baseball coach for eight years and was cast in the role of athletic director for three years.
“I loved the Bishop Donahue community. But Weir gave me a chance to come home and teach and coach at my alma mater,” he noted.
Granato enjoyed much success directing the Red Riders. His teams captured three OVAC championships while making six state appearances. During four of those trips to Charleston, his teams advanced to the state semifinals. The Red Riders also gained three state tourney berths while Granato was varsity assistant.
He finished his Weir coaching career with 241 varsity wins. That number ranks second in school annals to coaching legend Carl Hamill.
“I have so many special memories coaching at Weir. We had some great seasons and great players, way too many to mention,” Granato said. “But even when you are having a rough season record-wise doesn’t mean it is a rough season team-wise. For the most part, our teams always got better by the time February rolled around.”
His winning ways at Donahue and Weir resulted in the personable mentor having the opportunity to coach many all-star contests. He coached the OVAC Sam Mumley Basketball Classic six times while coaching in the OVAC George Kovalick All-Star Baseball Game. He also coached in the West Virginia North-South Basketball Game and the state’s baseball classic.
“I used to work the Five Star Camp. John Calipari (Kentucky head coach) told us there that coaching basketball is a 24/7 profession. He was right,” Granato said. “In my 21 years at Weir, we have played in more than 600 summer league games. I have missed four. We also had more than 1,600 practices during those 21 years. Coaching is a time consuming profession.”
Now as he enters a new chapter of his life at age 61, what will he reflect upon from four decades of coaching?
“Teaching and coaching are honorable professions. It’s been a rewarding run,” Granato said. “I will miss the camaraderie with the people we interact with in the profession.
“I will miss being with the players in school on the day of a big game. I will miss my assistant coaches,” he added. “I will also miss the camaraderie we have cultivated with all the other coaches we developed relationships with.”
That special coaching camaraderie surfaced again earlier this month when Granato served as a pallbearer for coaching icon Mel Coleman, who died July 1.
Granato is married (Annie) and has two stepchildren, Pat and Mikala. He also has a grandson, Mac.
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