New Castle News

Sports

February 18, 2014

Larry Kelly: An inside look at ‘The Hurricane Way’

NEW CASTLE — With New Castle’s 85-66 victory over Latrobe High on Saturday at North Allegheny High, the Red Hurricane have now won 74 WPIAL games in a row.

As you might expect, the ’Canes are the favorite to win their third consecutive WPIAL championship.

Their execution and passion are on display for all to see on game night. But as an assistant coach on Ralph Blundo’s staff, I get the inside view of Hurricane basketball. What makes it great? What makes it special? Here’s your look and you decide.

•The Preparation — It starts with the film study. I can’t imagine another high school team that watches as much film as New Castle. Ralph Litrenta is our go-to guy in getting the film. Litrenta traveled more than 3,000 miles last year in taping the games of our opponents. No site is too far or weather forecast to dreadful to stop Litrenta from getting the tape.

After he returns the tape, it is then given to Joe Anderson — affectionately known as our director of basketball operations. Anderson then downloads the tape into our state-of-the-art laptop, where Blundo then can break down the game and set it up so that he can instantly go to the plays he wants the team to watch. By the time the film study is complete, we know our opponents’ plays and sets better than they do.

•The Practice — One word to describe a Red Hurricane practice is focus. Everybody, including the coaches, is required to be totally focused. In fact, just last week I was talking to Ralph Blundo Sr., the coach’s father, during practice and got stared down by junior. I didn’t mind getting stared down but truth be told, I felt bad for Ralph Sr.!

It’s the team’s ability to focus at practice that allows the ’Canes to flawlessly execute more than 20 offensive sets each game.

•The Pre-game — Each player has his own routine. Jake McPhatter, Drew and Stew Allen like to listen to music. Malik Hooker will spend his time stretching. As you might imagine, Anthony Richards is the most energetic. He races up and down the locker room first with the ball in his hand pounding his dribble frenetically. He then spends the next five minutes guarding an imaginary player. He ends his warm-up exchanging passes with his father, David, who serves as an assistant coach.

The pre-game ends with the players in the team room, where they receive their last minute instructions and inspiration from Coach Blundo. His message is always the same — we will do this with great passion, with great energy, and every 50-50 ball will be ours.

When the games get bigger, the head coach gets better. He’s reminded our team that we play for the name “on the front of our shirt;” that “they were built for this moment”; and that the “spirit of the Red Hurricane lives inside of them.”

I’m 60 years old but when he’s done I feel like I could go out onto the floor and play.

The pre-game ends with a prayer. All of the players and coaches gather in a circle and grasp hands, with Hooker always clutching Coach Blundo’s hand.

•The Code — Before the players take the floor, Hooker will lead the team in the code. Corey Eggleston Jr. started the code two years ago and Shawn Anderson continued it last year. With all the lights out in the locker room the code is recited.

“Dear Lord, the battles we go through in life — we ask for a chance that’s fair. A chance to equal our stripes — a chance to do or dare. If we should win, let it be by the code with faith and honor held high. If we should lose, stand by the road and cheer as the winners go by. Day by day we get better and better until we can’t be beat. We won’t be beat! How are we going to do it? Together!”

•The Game — It starts with the player introductions. There is no pomp or circumstance. After each player is introduced, he shakes hands with the officials and the opposing coach. No dances, chest bumps, high-fives, low-fives or pat downs. It’s the Hurricane Way.

As the opposing team is introduced, Coach Richards reminds our starters of the defensive matchups. Before the tip, Coach Blundo gives our team the opening play and defense.

During timeouts, Coach Blundo will reset the defense and give our team a play to run. Coach Blundo is as fiery a coach as I have ever been around but no matter how tense the circumstances, he never loses his composure. It might be his greatest strength. He knows that if the coach loses his composure, then the players will lose theirs. He doesn’t do it. It’s not the Hurricane Way.

•The Result — No explanation needed — you’ve seen it 74 times in a row.

 

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