Jim O’Brien: Joe David directs all-star physical therapy program
Jim O’Brien for Pittsburgh Business Times
A familiar sports figure was seated across the desk from Joe David in his corner office at David Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Center in Mt. Lebanon.
Dave Giusti, the National League’s relief pitcher of the year in 1971 when the Pirates won the World Series, was going over his personal rehabilitation program with Joe David.
David, at age 48, looked terrific, bright dark eyes shining, handsome in a blue and white checkered shirt under his white lab coat. He looked professional.
Giusti is one of about twenty or so Pittsburgh sports and media personalities on the Wall of Fame at the entry of David’s complex on Castle Shannon Boulevard. Sportscaster Myron Cope, former Steelers’ lineman Jim Sweeney, and broadcaster/comedian Jimmy Krenn all pay tribute over their signed photos to David for his rehabilitation efforts on their behalf.
“I suffered a stroke and had problems with my left side,” said the 73-year-old Giusti, “and my doctor prescribed physical therapy. I have known Joe David since he was a kid and lived near us in Upper St. Clair. He has a great office and staff and he’s a good coach. I told him that. He’s a good guy and I like good guys.”
I urged Pitt’s basketball coach Roy Chipman to offer David a scholarship in 1982 when he was “a good kid.” Chipman wasn’t convinced David would be up to Big East competition. I went to work at Pitt shortly afterward as assistant athletic director for public relations and was there when David was a two-year starting guard for the Panthers and when he was accorded Academic All-America honors. David lettered for four seasons (1983-1986). I got to know his father, Rev. Sam David.
Sam David was a scoring star at Bridgeville High and for Doc Carlson’s Pitt basketball teams in the ‘40s. He and his son both applied for admission to Pitt’s School of Medicine but were not accepted. The father went on to become a chemistry teacher and basketball coach at Chartiers Valley High and later an arch priest with the St. George Orthodox Church in Oakland, and Joe went into the highly-competitive physical therapy program at Pitt.
He couldn’t be prouder of his present role as family man, head of his own physical therapy and sports medicine complex and the boys’ basketball coach at Mt. Lebanon. He has succeeded in all respects.
“We both helped to heal people,” Joe said of his late father, “and we were doing something worthwhile with our lives.”
There’s a large framed photograph of one of David’s two WPIAL Quad A championship basketball teams at Mt. Lebanon High School. His Lebos won WPIAL titles in 2006 and 2010 in his 12 years as coach. His 2010-2011 team made it to the PIAA finals.
David has a sports medicine staff of 15. He’s been a physical therapist since 1988 and has had his own facility since 1994. He obtained a doctorate in physical therapy in 2005.
His father told him that things happen for a good reason – that God has a plan for us – and that he would do well as a physical therapist. “I think I would have been a dang good doctor, too,” said Joe David. Yes, he said “dang.”
One of his early mentors was Dr. Freddie Fu, the director of UPMC Sports Medicine. Dr. Fu was the physician for Pitt’s athletic programs during David’s student days and allowed David to observe him performing surgery.
There is a framed photo in David’s office showing him with legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. Joe traveled to Los Angeles three times for sit-down sessions with Coach Wooden and came away wiser for the experience.
“I’m blessed,” said Joe David. “I think I enjoy the best of all worlds: directing this facility, being able to coach the boys’ basketball team and having time with my family.”
David moved from Upper St. Clair to Mt. Lebanon in 2010. Two of his sons, Justin, a senior, and Jonny, a sophomore, are starters on the varsity. His oldest son, Jeremy, is a sophomore at Virginia Tech. His daughter, Samantha, is in seventh grade. Their mother, Sandi, was an attractive cheerleader at Pitt during David’s playing days. Yes, Joe David has led a charmed life.