Spencer Stefko’s career as a girls basketball coach has been defined by winning.

He has won more than 80% of his games in 18 seasons as a head coach to go along with a pair of PIAA titles, and his seven WPIAL titles are tied for fifth all time.

Stefko, though, decided early this month to take a step back from coaching. In what was stunning news, Stefko resigned at North Allegheny, which he guided to five WPIAL titles in nine seasons.

But for this big winner, the primary reason for making the decision had to do with something “little.”

“When you have a new little one, you have to recalibrate some stuff,” Stefko, speaking publicly about his decision for the first time, told the Pittsburgh Union Progress.

Stefko, 47, and his wife, Megan, welcomed their first child, Danny, on Feb. 24, two days before North Allegheny beat Peters Township in the WPIAL Class 6A semifinals. The Tigers then saw their repeat bid come up short in a loss to Norwin in the championship game.

“It’s just a stretch of life where I have to allocate my time a little differently,” said Stefko, who lives in McCandless. “It doesn’t make it any easier. I love the kids that are coming back. I wish I could be in two places at one time because I already miss them. They’re the best. I just couldn’t do right by them and be the six days a week, four hours a day guy I have always been. I’m not good enough to do it without that. I have to outwork people. I just know this group deserves someone who is always there. You can’t be a part-time varsity head coach. That’s never worked anywhere, and I’m not going to try to be the first.”

Stefko said the need to step away hit him late in the school year shortly after Megan returned to work. She’s an oncology nurse, while he’s a history teacher at North Allegheny High School.

“There were two weeks at the end of school where my wife went back to work and I was also at work,” Stefko said. “Before that, we had it figured out. But when she went back and started working, it kind of simulated what September might be like, and we realized something had to give.”

Ironically, when Stefko took the North Allegheny job in 2015, he replaced Sherri McConnell, who had resigned to spend more time with her family following eight seasons. McConnell’s daughter, Kellie, was a senior and one of North Allegheny’s top players last season.

But helping to raise a new child wasn’t the only reason for Stefko’s departure. He admits that he needs to work on himself, as well. Stefko said that he weighed 195 pounds when he began his coaching career. He’s now up to 287.

“When you put on 90 pounds to do a job, if you’re not an offensive lineman or a sumo wrestler, think about what effect the job is having on you,” said Stefko, also a longtime coach for the Western Pa. Bruins AAU program. “I’m a 47-year-old first-time dad. If I want to be at Danny’s high school graduation, I’ll be 65 years old. I don’t know if being 5-11, 287 will get me there.”

Stefko has a career record of 409-92 (.816), which includes an even more spectacular 222-29 (.884) mark at North Allegheny. Stefko led the Tigers to the WPIAL final eight times in his nine seasons, winning titles in 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2023. Prior to that, the program had never won a WPIAL title. Stefko guided the Tigers to their first PIAA title in 2021.

His success predates his time at North Allegheny. Stefko, a 1995 graduate of old Vincentian Academy, got his start as a head coach in 2006 at Chartiers Valley. He coached the Colts for seven seasons, helping them to the WPIAL semifinals in 2008. Stefko then had a tremendous two-year run at Seton LaSalle, guiding the Rebels to two WPIAL titles, a PIAA title and a PIAA runner-up finish before leaving for North Allegheny.

Spencer Stefko guided North Allegheny to the WPIAL championship game eight times in his nine seasons, compiling a record of 222-29 in that time. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

At North Allegheny, Stefko’s teams were considered one of the premier programs in the state year after year. Of course, the Tigers weren’t short on standout players, among them Rachel Martindale and Lizzy Groetsch. Each was twice named first-team all-state, and Groetsch was the state’s Class 6A player of the year in 2021. Stefko has long credited Martindale for “recruiting” him to come to North Allegheny.

“A charmed existence,” Stefko said of his time at North Allegheny. “Not real life. You could name any kid on those teams, and I’d have nothing but positive stories about them.”

Stefko may no longer be coach, but he’s still helping out some with coaching duties as North Allegheny prepares to look for his successor. He said he’s opening up the gym when players want to shoot around, and he has been working on putting together the schedule for next season.

Speaking of a successor, Stefko said he has no intentions of making a push for any particular hires. Considering it’s arguably one of the top head coaching jobs in the entire state, there’s expected to be quite a few applicants.

“I truly believe North Allegheny is the best job in the country. I would scream that from every rooftop,” Stefko said. “And it’s that way because of [athletic director] Bob Bozzuto. There isn’t that entitlement that there are at other places. I will tell you, I was there for nine years and had zero parent meetings. Since Bob is the best, the best I can do is stay the heck out of the way and not muddy the waters. I’m here to support the new coach and help with the transition any way I can.”

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.