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.”
EDUCATION: 1984 graduate of Frazier High School in Fayette County, starring in basketball and baseball. He remains the all-time leading basketball scorer there with 1,763 points. Went on to star in basketball at Westminster College, graduating in 1988 with a major in social studies and a minor in secondary education. He scored 1,239 points for the Titans.
MARRIED: Wife is Shannon Lafko
HOW DID YOU MEET YOUR WIFE?: “At Westminster College. It was actually a Sigma Nu fraternity house gathering.”
IS YOUR WIFE A FORMER ATHLETE? “She never played any sports. She owns a bakery, Perfect Pastry, in Allison Park.”
CHILDREN: Joey (15) and Jenna (13).
ARE YOUR KIDS FOLLOWING IN YOUR ATHLETIC FOOTSTEPS?: “Joey is a sophomore guard for Hampton and will be in the starting lineup Saturday against New Castle. Jenna’s also a basketball player. We have her in the Hampton basketball program, as well as AAU teams. I’m just happy for Joey. I’m happy for the success the team has had and him being able to be part of that team’s success.
“I have to take the blame. They were both introduced to basketball at an early age. Both have traveled with me to practices and to summer league games from the time they were in diapers. Sometimes it wasn’t their choice, but they both have been around a gymnasium and basketball games since the time they were born.”
OCCUPATION: “When I’m not coaching, I’m a ninth- and 10th-grade social studies teacher. This is my 17th year at Hampton, and I’ve been a teacher for 23 years.
“Currently, we are studying world history, in the years between World War I and World War II. We just had a lesson on Gandhi and nonviolent civil disobedience.”
WHAT MADE YOU GET INTO COACHING?: “My father was a good influence. He was an assistant basketball coach for 23 years at Frazier High School then took over as head basketball coach the last 15 years. Like my kids, I was exposed to basketball at a very young age.”
HOBBIES: “My favorite hobby is trout fishing. I enjoy the spring-stocked trout season. Before basketball season, I fish for steelhead in the Erie tributaries. This started ever since I ended my basketball playing career. Playing three sports in high school (football, basketball and baseball) and playing college basketball and baseball, it didn’t provide me a lot of down time. When I ended my playing days, I really took a liking to the trout fishing with my brother, Matt.”
FAVORITE FOOD: Pizza. “I love to find the traditional pizza shops. In the Hampton area, my favorite is Milano’s Pizza. They have one down the street from the Palumbo Center. I really like to support the local and private businesses. There are too many to name.”
ON WHETHER HE’LL GO TO MILANO’S BEFORE THE GAME SATURDAY: “I don’t think so. I’ll be too busy and won’t have the time to do that.”
ROLE MODEL: “One of the guys who has made a substantial impact on my life is (former Westminster basketball coach) Ron Galbreath, in both the professions I have chosen, teaching as well as coaching. I’m very fortunate to play four years at Westminster for him. I can’t say enough about him as a man and as a person.”
PET PEEVE: “Students who do not come prepared for class. That’s a long-term pet peeve, having been involved in education for 22 years.
“My new one is students who try to use their cell phones during the school day for activities not involved in the educational process. Students are permitted to carry cell phones at Hampton, but for academic purposes only. It’s a big challenge because of social media.”
KIDS HE HAD TO REPRIMAND FOR USING THEIR PHONES TO GO ON FACEBOOK DURING CLASS YESTERDAY: Two
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO TO WIN SATURDAY: “We have to make more baskets and defend against their ability to score. We need to limit their second and third opportunities to score by rebounding. We have to make some shots ourselves and make good decisions against their pressure.”
NEW CASTLE —
It’s a hectic time for WPIAL Quad-A championship game coaches Ralph Blundo and Joe Lafko.
- TOP STORIES
New Castle News names new publisher
Sharon A. Sorg is no stranger to hometown newspapers. It’s no surprise, then, that she’s been selected to lead the newspaper in her hometown. Sorg has been named publisher of the New Castle News, which is just a few miles from her residence in Pulaski Township.
Photo Gallery, Story: Ceremony remembers fallen officers
Last year there were 12. This year, there are 13. The law enforcement community paused Thursday to remember Lawrence County’s fallen officers in a ceremony outside the New Castle police station.
Photo Gallery, Video: Procession, flag-waving crowds salute fallen policeman
Throngs of people crowded along East Washington Street Wednesday, paying final tribute to fallen officer William J. “Jerry” McCarthy IV. A motorcade of about 20 motorcycles and more than 200 police cruisers, all with flashing red and blue lights, created a sensation as it rode slowly toward Shenango Township.
Pulaski officer honored for heroic efforts
A Pulaski Township patrolman was named April 2013’s Officer of the Month by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
County considering jail privatization
Lawrence County government officials are mulling the idea of privatizing the jail. The matter came to light when a company toured the 268-bed facility after answering a request for proposals that was sent out by the commissioners.
New PennDOT website to outline road, bridge work
Pennsylvania senators hit the highway Tuesday at the end of their May session without confronting a bill that would pour billions into road and bridge repairs and construction.
Hilcorp might drill in Neshannock Township
Marcellus Shale drilling could be moving into Neshannock Township. A Hilcorp Energy Co. representative said during the Neshannock supervisors meeting Tuesday that the company has leased Millennium Park property off King’s Chapel Road for possible drilling.
Suspect in officer’s death jailed in county
Kylee Gwen Barletto was composed walking into court Monday until a television reporter pelted her with questions. Escorted by two state troopers, she was asked, “What do you have to say to the police officer’s family?” “I’m sorry,” she uttered as she was ushered into the court lobby. Then she burst into tears.
Abortion doctor found guilty of murdering babies
Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the 72-year-old abortion doctor accused of murdering four babies after they were allegedly born alive during abortion procedures at his Philadelphia clinic, was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder Monday.
‘A Great Person’: Dan Gallatin remembered as fireman, Mason
The Lawrence County firefighting community was saddened last week by the loss of one of its brothers. Dan Gallatin, 68, a member of the Scott Township Volunteer Fire Department for nearly 40 years, was killed Tuesday when the motorcycle he was riding was hit from behind on Route 956 in Hickory Township.
- More TOP STORIES Headlines
- New Castle News names new publisher