Luko resigns from Cal Area
It took 10 years for Steve Luko to return as head coach of the California Area boys' basketball team.
Due to health concerns, Luko, 57, is resigning after coaching just five games.
Bruno Pappasergi, who is in his third year as an assistant with the program, has taken over head coaching duties.
Luko, who guided the Trojans to the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals in 2003, resigned a year later because of family reasons. He was rehired in September but decided to step down earlier this week. Luko leaves with a career record of 47-32.
The 1974 California graduate and former star athlete, Luko noted his brother, Terry, died of a heart attack in 2006 at the age of 52. Their father also died of a heart attack.
“It runs in my family, it scares you a little bit,” Luko said Thursday. “It took years to get back into this and it didn't pan out. I feel bad for the kids. If I expect 100 percent from you and can't give 100 percent myself, it's not fair to them.”
Luko said he's been bombarded with constant pounding headaches and not able to focus the past few weeks. Luko said he's having tests performed and was warned by a physician to avoid stressful environments.
“My blood pressure skyrocketed and I just wasn't myself, the kids noticed and asked ‘What's wrong, Coach Luko?' but I just kept it to myself,” he said. “It got to the point where the risk outweighed the reward. The last thing I want to do is get fired up during a game and have a heart attack in front of the kids.
“It was just a gradual buildup. I never had headaches … In the end, I didn't think it was fair to the kids.”
California Area Superintendent Brian Jackson said Pappasergi will serve as an interim coach until the school board officially names him head coach at its Jan. 15 meeting.
Pappasergi, a longtime coach in the Charleroi Area School District, was one of two finalists for the California job this past fall.
“Mr. Luko himself recommended Mr. Pappasergi and the administration is in agreement with that,” Jackson said. “We feel it would be a smooth transition and he brings a lot of experience to the table.”
Pappasergi, who guided the Trojans to a 53-52 win Thursday over Southmoreland, called Luko “a longtime friend.” Pappasergi said Luko called after his hiring and asked him to stay on as an assistant coach.
“I've known Stevie for over 30 years. We played a lot of softball together and against each other and I hate taking over under these circumstances, believe me,” Pappasergi said. “I feel so terrible he had to leave under these circumstances. He was starting to mold the team into his own, but I know all the kids and I think we can continue what he started for us.”
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.