When a then-26-year-old Rob Carmody put his name in the hat for the vacant Mars basketball head coaching position, actually being hired for the job wasn’t his No. 1 priority.

“I applied just to get through the interview process and to see what it was all about,” Carmody recalled.

Now, 400 wins later, it’s difficult to imagine Carmody not being the leader of the Planets program.

One of the WPIAL’s longest tenured and most highly successful coaches reached a major milestone last Friday, as Carmody, in his 26th season, claimed the 400th win of his career after guiding host Mars to a 65-46 win against Plum.

Carmody, 52, has been the face of the Mars program since 1998. Prior to his arrival, Mars had been to the postseason only four times and had won just one section title. But under the guidance of Carmody, the Planets have captured nine section titles, two WPIAL titles and have two PIAA runner-up finishes, all of which have come since 2013.

Not bad for a kid from Lawrenceville who had just three players attend his first open gym at Mars a quarter century ago.

Carmody is a graduate of North Catholic High School and Westminster College who was once a fine player himself. His itch to become a coach actually began when he was in college. Carmody credits the late “Baldy” Regan for getting him going. Carmody worked as a counselor for Regan’s Junior All-American Basketball Camp and did the same at the famous Five-Star Basketball Camp.

Upon graduating from Westminster, Carmody became the junior varsity coach at North Catholic, working under his old high school coach, the legendary Don Graham. It was a role Carmody held for four seasons.

“I knew Coach Graham was going to be there forever and then Coach [Dave] Long would take over, and that’s the way it should be. So, when the Mars job opened up, I applied,” said Carmody, who credits the late Graham and his late college coach, Ron Galbreath, as being coaching influences.

Little did Carmody know at that moment that he would actually be hired for the job at the age of 26.

“Fortunately, [former Mars athletic director] Scott Heinauer gave me an opportunity,” Carmody said. “There were guys with better things on their resumes, but he thought the vision I had of what I wanted to do at Mars was worth taking a chance on. One thing that has remained consistent are great families, great kids and great support from the community. It’s a really fun place to live.”

Carmody and his wife of 26 years, Stephanie, have raised their three children in the community. He and his wife are also co-workers. Stephanie’s family owns East Liberty Electroplating, which is where Rob has worked since getting out of teaching in 2001. He saw the move as an opportunity for a more flexible schedule, one that would better complement his demanding coaching duties.

There have been a lot of talented players come through the Mars program during Carmody’s tenure, including six 1,000-point career scores since just 2018. But two of the best have been Carmody’s two sons, Robby and Michael. Robby, the program’s all-time leading scorer, scored 2,390 points and Michael tallied 1,182. There were rumors that Rob might step down as coach after Michael graduated in 2020, but Rob said there was no truth to those. He did say that he considered not coaching while Robby and Michael were in high school just so he could “just be their dad” and allow them to hear a different voice coaching them.

“Fortunately, those guys handled it well, and my wife was our mediator if there ever was a problem,” said Carmody, whose daughter, Mackenzie, is a sophomore at Penn State.

Being a dad is still right up there at the top of Rob Carmody’s lengthy to-do list. Both Robby (basketball) and Michael (football) continued their careers at Notre Dame, a place that dad estimates he has traveled to 400 or 500 times. Michael is an offensive lineman for Notre Dame who missed the 2023 season due to a broken hand he suffered a week before the team’s season opener in Ireland. Dad said that Michael will graduate in May, and with two years of eligibility remaining, he’s currently weighing his options moving forward.

“My children decided to not only get an education from Notre Dame, but they also wanted to run up the medical bills as far as they could,” Rob said, jokingly.

Rob Carmody speaks with enormous pride when discussing any of his children, but that’s especially the case when he talks about Robby, whom he calls one of the best stories in college basketball this season. 

“It’s so fun to see him back on the floor,” Rob said of Robby, who led Mars to its first WPIAL title in 2018. 

Robby was a top-100 player nationally at Mars, but his career at Notre Dame was filled with injuries and heartbreak. Robby started the first game of his freshman season, one that saw him suffer a torn labrum. The following season, Carmody tore his ACL after landing awkwardly on his leg following a dunk. A year later in 2020, COVID introduced itself to the world, which stunted Robby’s rehab of the injury. Later that year, Robby fractured his kneecap while doing a simple layup drill during a practice.

After countless surgeries and 1,000’s of hours of rehab, Robby Carmody is finally filling up the basket regularly this season, and he’s doing it at Mercer University, a Division I school located in Macon, Ga. A 6-foot-4 senior guard with one season of eligibility remaining beyond this one, Robby has started all nine of the team’s games and is second on the team in scoring with 10.4 points per game. 

“He’s not battled a life-threatening illness, so it’s always about perspective, but what he’s gone through to get back has been amazing,” Dad said. “He’s just a tough, tough dude. The mental side of it, there were some dark moments. A lot of uncertainty. He would call himself “a failure.” And I’m like, ‘You’ve got a master’s degree from Notre Dame. You’re definitely not a failure.’”

Robby Carmody has two degrees from Notre Dame and is working on a third at Mercer. And guess what, he could eventually follow in Dad’s coaching footsteps.

“I think eventually he’ll get into coaching,” Rob said, “because I think he understands that he can make an impact that way.”

Rob Carmody has unquestionably made an impact that way during his coaching career. His Mars team (2-1 thus far) appears to be one of the better teams in WPIAL Class 4A again this season. The Planets boast a tall frontcourt led by 6-foot-6 seniors Ryan Ceh and Remi Black.

“I like the attitude our guys have and I like where we’re headed,” said Carmody, whose Planets travel to Knoch for a non-section game Tuesday.

Carmody said he believes that successful programs take on the personality of their coach, citing the New Castle basketball team and Aliquippa football team as being two examples.

The veteran coach said he likes to think that’s also the case with the Mars basketball program he holds so close to his heart.

“I was by far never the best player, but I loved the game and loved having a good time, and I like to think that I was always an aggressive, hard-nosed guy,” Carmody said. “And I like to think my teams, my program, are that way, too.”

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at beverett@unionprogress.com.

Brad Everett

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at beverett@unionprogress.com.