New Castle News


March 4, 2014

Clutch coach: Intense practices, focus on film and lessons learned from local legends all help Blundo mold ’Canes into a history-making program

NEW CASTLE — It all starts at the top.

Like any quality organization, a foundation of success is built through strong leadership.

That’s evident with the New Castle High boys basketball program. Head coach Ralph Blundo and his assistants have helped the Red Hurricane make history as the only WPIAL hoops squad to win three-straight district titles with undefeated records.

New Castle completed its three-peat with a 55-49 win over Hampton in Saturday’s WPIAL Class AAAA championship game at Palumbo Center. It complemented the 2013 Quad-A and 2012 Triple-A title triumphs.

Overall, the ’Canes have racked up some eye-popping stats during this team’s run:

•Wins in 82 of their last 84 games

•68-straight regular-season wins

•46-straight wins against WPIAL teams

•41-straight section wins

•35-straight home wins

Blundo, a former standout player at New Castle, increased his record to 102-10 in four years leading the ’Canes. Overall, his coaching record is a sparkling 128-12. He went 26-2 in one year (1998-99) guiding George Junior Republic in Grove City.

“My staff and I try to get better every year. We’re constantly thinking of ways to get better and improve our system to make sure our players are growing and getting,” he said. “Make no mistake about it; I have never coached bad players. I was blessed to have good players. Certainly, everything looks better when you have good players.”


Blundo was an assistant under John Sarandrea at New Castle for two years before he got his first varsity head coaching gig at George Junior Republic, a school of court-adjudicated youths, in 1998 as a 25-year-old. The Tigers were the defending PIAA Class AA champs. With Cincinnati recruit B. J. Grove and Gerome Ruff, who had plenty of D-I interest, they were favorites to repeat in ’99. On top of that, the program was in the midst of a long winning streak, which Blundo inherited from previous head coach Bob McConnell.

However, the 1998-99 squad was dealt a blow when Ruff completed his program and left GJR halfway through that season. The Tigers’ winning streak was halted at 52 games with a 42-40 loss to Mercyhurst Prep in the D-10 title game. George Junior advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals, but dropped a 77-59 decision to Windber.

“I was just a kid. That’s the most amazing thing. I was a seventh-grade coach for a year and a ninth-grade coach for a year and, all of a sudden, I was coaching the No. 1 team in the state in Double-A,” Blundo said. “As I reflect, I probably was a little too rambunctious at that point in my life to be really, really effective.

“Overall, I thought I did a good job there. I think just simple maturity and understanding and really having great assistants helped me. I learned that, if you surround yourself with great people who share your vision and are going to care as much as you care about what you’re doing, as a staff, you can do great things for your players.”

Blundo returned to New Castle after that season and remained an assistant coach through 2006.

“I got hired as a teacher. At the same time, the varsity assistant job opened up,” he said. “I always had aspirations to be the next head basketball coach at New Castle. I thought, by taking that varsity assistant position along with the teaching position, that would give me the best opportunity to do that.”



Blundo achieved his goal of becoming ’Canes head coach in 2010 when Mark Stanley stepped down three seasons after taking over from Sarandrea, who had moved to Sharon as its superintendent. New Castle went 20-8 and reached the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals and PIAA second round in Blundo’s first campaign.

It was in that season that the ’Canes suffered their last home loss (Jan. 15, 85-83 to Sharon) and section setback (Feb. 8, 58-54 at Blackhawk). This year’s seniors were freshmen during that campaign, which helped set the stage for the group’s three-year run.

“When Coach Blundo came along, I was familiar with him and I was excited,” New Castle senior Anthony Richards said. “I just didn’t know he was going to be this guy. As great of a coach that he is, every player on our team will tell you that he’s a 10 times better person. He’d do anything for us. He’s a great guy. If you ask me, I say he is the best coach in the state, hands down. What he did with us, he brought the program to what we have now.

“It all starts with him. Every single game we have, whether it’s the best team in the state or the worst team in the section, he has us prepared for everything that the team will throw at us. Every out of bounds play, every sideout play, every press. Everything they have, he watches.

“It’s the whole staff. It’s unbelievable the way they prepare us. We watch film twice a week. They order us pizza or wings and we watch film; watch ourselves and we watch the other team. The next day in practice, we go over and fix what we have. Coach Blundo is the type of coach that, if you’re a half inch from where he wants you to be, he is going to get on you about it.”

Preparation has become a hallmark for Blundo, his assistants and the team’s support staff.

“I know that my staff and I work hard at it,” Blundo said. “If you’re going to coach basketball, your players deserve the best you have to offer. They deserve that you work extraordinarily hard so they are prepared for when the game comes and they can just play. You can live with the results then.”

The coaching staff’s attention to detail and demands for excellence — on and off the court — are not lost on the players.

“In my opinion, I think we have the best coaching staff in the WPIAL,” New Castle senior Malik Hooker said. “Not only are they great coaches, but they are like our parents. They take care of us on and off the court. They make sure we’re getting our homework done and making sure we’re making good decisions outside of basketball.

“They are just like family to us. We’re one big family.”



Blundo benefited by learning basketball from coaching legends — as a player at New Castle under Don Ross and at Westminster College under Ron Galbreath, and as an assistant with Sarandrea, who is now New Castle’s superintendent.

“I’ve been blessed that I’ve touched the hands of a lot of great coaches and to be able to absorb some good advice I’ve learned from them. We create our own philosophy, but I didn’t make it up. I just learned it over time,” Blundo said. “I still keep in touch with my college coach. Coach Galbreath and I talk regularly. My high school coach, Coach Ross, we talk regularly. We bounce things off each other.

“I don’t know that there are many coaches who have a superintendent they can talk to and bounce things off of and talk about basketball and know that you’re getting great advice. John and I worked together so long, it’s nice to be able to bounce things off him.”

Sarandrea is happy to talk about basketball anytime.

“I wouldn’t say he comes to me for advice, but I would say we talk about things,” he said. “Usually, afterwards, it’s fun to chat about what you see, what you don’t see, what you feel, what you don’t feel. We do do that.

“He feels comfortable ‘debriefing’ in front of another coach. That’s always fun to do. I do enjoy that.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • StateFair.jpg 'State Fair' coming to Playhouse

    The fair is coming to town. No, not the Lawrence County Fair, although that is right around the corner. This is the Iowa State Fair, and it will be live on the stage of the New Castle Playhouse for three weeks, starting Friday night.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • accountant.jpg DeLorenzo’s status with authority unchanged

    Deno DeLorenzo’s status as a contract employee with the New Castle Sanitation Authority remains unchanged. Authority board members met with DeLorenzo last week regarding an investigation by the Lawrence County district attorney’s office involving Shenango Township funds.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shooting.jpg Detroit area man dies in Ellwood City gunfire

    A triple shooting in an Ellwood City street has claimed the life of a Detroit area man. Gunfire erupted in the middle of Loop Street outside the Walnut Ridge housing project around 10:20 p.m. Sunday, according to state police.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Baptism1.jpg Dipped downtown

    John the Baptist identified himself as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’ ” On Saturday, local evangelist Randy Crum once again took a cue from the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, eschewing the locusts and honey that John was known to munch on but heading out into the wilds to baptize believers and challenge them to share their faith with their community.

    July 21, 2014 3 Photos

  • lamancusa.jpg Tanner, district attorney: No comment

    The Lawrence County District Attorney is keeping mum about a probe into finances in Shenango Township. “We don’t talk about ongoing investigations,” Lamancusa said Friday.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo 5 Stories

  • Shenango1.jpg Shenango Township: Supervisors fire Tanner, release DeLorenzo

    The Shenango supervisors fired township secretary/treasurer Brian Tanner and terminated auditor and consultant Deno DeLorenzo last night.

    July 18, 2014 3 Photos 4 Stories

  • gavel.jpg Shenango to take action on Tanner, DeLorenzo

    Shenango’s supervisors will act Thursday night on the employment contracts of two men being investigated for possible theft of township funds.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo 4 Stories

  • money.jpg Shenango computers, financial papers seized

    Investigators have seized computers and a host of financial paperwork from the Shenango Township Municipal Building.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo 3 Stories

  • money.jpg Second warrant issued in Shenango Township finances probe

    The home office of Shenango Township’s secretary/treasurer is the subject of a search warrant. A warrant was approved allowing investigators from the Lawrence County district attorney’s office to search Brian Tanner’s home office at 658 Melody Lane Extension in Shenango and seize all computers and computer records.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • Our Opinion: Who’s watching the money in Shenango Township?

    The Shenango Township supervisors have some explaining to do. And that’s putting it mildly.

    July 15, 2014 1 Story

House Ads

The film "Into the Storm," about a devastating tornado, opens nationally Aug. 1. What's your favorite storm movie?

The Day After Tomorrow
The Perfect Storm
     View Results