New Castle News

Schools

January 20, 2012

Larry Kelly: Lauro lived life as a champion — every day

NEW CASTLE — I didn’t play for Lindy Lauro. I wasn’t good enough.

And so when his daughter and namesake, Lindy, asked me to give a eulogy, I was humbled and honored.

There are so many others who are more worthy to speak of his greatness. But even though I never played for Coach Lauro, I knew that he was special. I recognize greatness when I see it.

After he finished coaching, I purposely would spend time with him anytime I had the opportunity to do so. I asked him a thousand questions. Some he would answer, and some he would just look at me without an answer knowing that I was trying to get into areas that I was not entitled to go.

I’ve studied the great coaches. John Wooden, Vince Lombardi, Pat Riley. They were men of integrity. They were selfless and tenacious.

Coach Lauro above all else was a man of integrity. What I’ve learned in my life is that you can fool adults but you can’t fool kids. They know if you are legit.

One of Coach Lauro’s deepest beliefs is that people size you up immediately after meeting you. He would say, “They can smell you.”

Jesse Moss, one of the greatest in the Hurricane family, told me that, “Coach Lauro didn’t just tell you that he cared, he lived it. I might be in prison if not for Coach Lauro.”

Jesse recently retired from the Youth Development Center as a counselor after 25 years and is now an assistant basketball coach at New Castle — one of many of Coach Lauro’s success stories.

If Coach thought that it was the right thing to do, he did it — and he didn’t care what anybody else thought.

This was never more evident than in 1962, when Coach Lauro moved Allen Cuffie, a black student from the West Side, into his home in Mahoningtown with his 70-year-old mother who was an Italian immigrant. This was a time in our world when blacks and whites weren’t permitted to drink from the same water fountain or use the same restrooms.

It didn’t matter what the neighbors thought or that Cuffie had a juvenile record. It was the right thing to do — and he did it. Cuffie was not only a great football player, but, more importantly, he became a great citizen.

The Coach would never admit it when I asked, but Cuffie may have been his favorite player. But if Cuffie sat at the head of the favorites table, then Anthony Aven and Sam Flora were in chairs at the same table. Anthony is the owner of Aven Fire Systems and Sam is the athletic director at New Castle High.

Again in 1967, when the quarterback and center were having academic problems, they, too, became guests of the Lauro household. Only now, Coach was newly married with a newborn baby. When I asked what Vikki, his wife of 49 years, had to say about two teenage boys moving in with them, he said, “I told her to move in with her mother for the summer.”

What!!! Did she do it? “Yes,” he said. “She understands me.”

Vikki did, indeed, love and understand the Coach. She allowed Lindy to be Coach Lauro. That’s wasn’t easy to do. She allowed him to be great even at her own expense. This community owes you a debt of gratitude, Mrs. Lauro.

The quarterback, Allan Joseph, and the center, Phil “Pudgy” Tony, not only got their academics in order, but led the Hurricane and Coach Lauro to his first WPIAL championship. Allan and Pudgy both became successful businessmen in our community.

Years later, when I suggested to a high school coach that he should move a struggling student into his household, he looked at me like I was crazy.

I asked Coach if the ’67 team was his favorite and he didn’t answer, which led me to believe that it was. Your first championship team always holds a special place in your heart.

When I asked him if the ’67 team was his best, again no answer. There was an undefeated team in 1970 that may have held that spot.

Great leaders are selfless. In all my conversations with Coach, he never talked about himself. He never tried to impress me with how smart he was or how much he cared. He certainly didn’t care what the media thought, nor did he ever try to impress them with his greatness as a coach. He is the antithesis of today’s coach.

In victory, it was all about the players. In defeat, he stood tall and took the heat. When it was time to leave, he did so without pomp or circumstance. He left with the same dignity and humility with which he did his job. And after he left, even though New Castle football fell on some tough times, he would never criticize or suggest he had a better way.

In his absence, it became clearer to me what a great football coach he was — much like the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.

Great leaders are tenacious. Coach Lauro’s toughness is legendary. It was obvious in his offense, 28 power; in his defense, 50 tough; and in the length of his practices. If you wanted to wear that Hurricane uniform, you not only had to be physically tough, but also mentally tough.

Coach Lauro had vision. He knew that the world that these young boys were about to enter was tougher than anything they had ever faced. If you allowed it, the world would beat you down. He knew that it wasn’t how many times you hit the ground that counted, but how many times you got up. He was not only preparing them to win football games, but also to win in life.

For the record, Coach Lauro has 220 victories. But those that stop the analysis there miss the point. They miss the man. They miss the greatness.

When I look around, I see a thousand victories. I see the success stories. I see the mental toughness that only he could teach. I see the greatness.

God sent this community a great gift. We just didn’t recognize that it came packaged as a football coach.  

And today, all the lives that he touched have returned one last time to recognize him for what he did.

(Attorney Larry Kelly delivered one of the eulogies at the funeral of legendary New Castle High football coach Lindy Lauro on Tuesday. This is an excerpt from his speech).

 

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