NEW CASTLE —
It’s a hectic time for WPIAL Quad-A championship game coaches Ralph Blundo and Joe Lafko.
Still, sports writer Andrew “Skippy” Petyak asked the two to take some time out for a little fun before Saturday night’s big game at the A.J. Palumbo Center.
So here are some things you may — or may not — have known about these bright young coaching minds and former Westminster College basketball standouts.
EDUCATION: 1991 graduate of New Castle High School, where he starred on the basketball team and was named the MVP of the WPIAL vs. City/West Penn all-stars at the 1991 Dapper Dan Roundball Classic in Pittsburgh. Spent 1 1/2 years at Monmouth University in New Jersey, then attended Westminster College for his last 2 1/2, where he starred on the basketball team. He was a public relations major and history minor and later returned to Westminster for his post-graduate degree.
MARRIED: Wife is Kate Blundo
HOW DID YOU MEET YOUR WIFE?: “I met my wife at a Steelers game in 1997. The Steelers got drilled by Dallas the first game of the year. I met her at a tailgate party. She was friends with my cousin, Kelly, they went to IUP together. I was more than interested the second I met her. I told my cousin to get her up here in New Castle so I could see her again. We started dating in 1998, and I’ve been with her since.”
IS YOUR WIFE A FORMER ATHLETE?: Kate has 12 varsity letters. She won a WPIAL basketball championship and was the MVP for the girls team at Avonworth High School and also played soccer and softball.
“She played nothing in college,” Blundo said. “I’ve never seen a person leave sports behind like she did. She immediately became a wife and a mother. That’s her focus and has been from the time we got married. She’s currently a special education teacher at New Castle.”
CHILDREN: Hannah (9), Ally (8), Ralphie (6) and Geno (2).
ARE YOUR KIDS FOLLOWING IN YOUR ATHLETIC FOOTSTEPS? “I don’t know. What I do know is they’re going to commit themselves to something and work hard at something. That’s how we’ll channel their efforts.”
OCCUPATION: Assistant principal at New Castle High School the last six years.
WHAT MADE YOU GET INTO COACHING?: “I wanted to help kids. That’s why I went back to school (a second time to Westminster) for education. I wanted to help kids, in particular ones at New Castle.”
HOBBIES: “There was a time I was an avid golfer. I think with four kids, obviously that had to give. I don’t play as much as I used to. I can’t play basketball anymore and golf filled that competitive void.”
BEST SCORE ON THE GOLF COURSE: A 2-over-par 73 at Sylvan Heights Golf Course in New Castle.
FAVORITE FOOD: “My mom, Linda’s, sauce. She makes it the old-fashioned way with the tomatoes and breaks them down and puts it on some macaroni, chicken parmesan or sausage. It’s just really good. Everything she makes is good.”
ROLE MODEL: “My father, Ralph. Nobody made a bigger impact on me than my dad growing up. He forced me to do things right as a kid. When I didn’t, he let me know. He owned a sporting goods store in downtown New Castle. He spent a lot of time talking to me and showing me how to be a man.”
PET PEEVE: “You know, I am pretty easygoing, but I guess I’d say my pet peeve is a lack of effort or apathy. As a player, I always wanted guys next to me to really, really care. As a coach, you want the same thing. It’s tough to watch any young man or woman be apathetic because they’re not giving themselves a chance.”
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO TO WIN SATURDAY: “We’ve got to play good, hard, New Castle basketball. Going into each game, our goals stay the same. We want to play hard, play great defensively and do a great job on the boards.”