Area mourns ex-Ringgold, Duquesne hoops star Anselmino
Jim Williams still remembers first seeing Brian Anselmino enter Elrama school to play basketball.
“He was already a foot taller than anyone else,” said Williams, an assistant boys basketball coach for Ringgold.
“He was very gangly and not very coordinated. And then to see him develop into such a great player.”
As he grew into his body, Anselmino also grew as a man, Williams said.
“Take away his basketball skills — he was just a terrific guy,” Williams said.
The Ringgold community is mourning the loss of Anselmino, who was killed in a four-vehicle accident shortly before 1 p.m. Saturday on Interstate 70 in South Strabane Township.
The former Ringgold High School and Duquesne University standout basketball player was traveling with his son, Anthony, to watch his daughter, Danielle, play in a volleyball tournament.
Anthony, who was injured in the mishap, is recovering at home from a broken collarbone after being treated at a hospital.
In a tragic irony, Brian Anselmino died on the eighth anniversary of the death of his daughter, Amanda, who was 2 ½ when she died of natural causes following a lengthy illness.
Anselmino, 45, who was living in Canonsburg, was driving a Ford Explorer when a driver heading in the opposite direction lost control, traveled 174 feet and crossed the median, Washington County Coroner Timothy Warco said in a statement.
Anselmino died from blunt-force trauma, according to Warco.
State police at the Washington barracks said the accident was caused by Bryan Anthony, 35, of Charleroi, who lost control of his westbound 2012 Dodge Avenger, which crossed the median, prompting Matthew Stantspainter, 36, of Washington, Pa., to swerve to avoid a direct crash.
Anthony's vehicle then struck Anselmino's SUV, pushing it into the path of an eastbound tractor-trailer operated by Jack Pranno, 52, of Port Angeles, Wash.
Police said Anthony suffered major injuries in the crash but a report on his condition was not available Sunday.
Neither Stantspainter, Pranno nor a passenger in his tractor-trailer was injured, according to state police.
Williams said he knew Anselmino since the accident victim was in the fourth grade, coaching him in grade school, middle school and high school.
“We're all pretty devastated by this,” Williams said.
Williams last spoke with Anselmino at Trinity High School, where they were assistant coaches of opposing teams – Williams with Ringgold and Anselmino at Canon-McMillan.
“We always talked about family,” Williams said. “His dad, Larry, was my assistant coach at Finley Junior High for about four years while Brian was playing there.”
“He turned in to just a wonderful human being and then to hear this…” said Alan Veliky, who was the varsity basketball coach when Anselmino, a 1986 graduate, starred for the Rams.
At 6 feet 8 inches, Anselmino graduated from Ringgold and became a starter on Duquesne's basketball team in his sophomore year. He led the Dukes in rebounding his junior and senior seasons, graduating in 1990.
“He was a great kid, a hard worker,” Veliky said. “He always put in the time to practice. He practiced through the summer.
“We always tried to get in undergraduate tournaments.”
Veliky said Anselmino was “a great student; his grades were always top shelf.”
They stayed in touch even after Anselmino graduated from Duquesne, often playing golf together at Nemacolin Country Club.
“I used to kid him if I ever took another basketball coaching job, I'd bring him on as an assistant,” Veliky said. “But I likely would have worked for him because he knew so much about basketball.”
Anselmino loved working with kids.
Veliky recalled that the first year he held a grade school league, the Rams mentor asked his players to work with the younger players and officiate their games.
Anselmino always volunteered.
“He liked working with the little kids,” Veliky said. “I knew he'd be a coach even at that age. He was a pleasure to coach.”
Anselmino was very active coaching youth basketball and baseball.
An assistant coach for Canon-McMillan, he coached his son's travel basketball team for the Canon Mac youth basketball program. He also has coached his kids in AAU basketball for the Western PA Wildcats and was involved with the Canon Mac Youth Baseball Association.
“We got to be real good friends,” Veliky said.
“It was so sudden…it's hard to believe,” Veliky said of Anselmino's death.
“He was very considerate,” recalled Anselmino's father, Larry. “He always worried about his mother and dad.
“The boy was so appreciative. Anything you would do for him, he was always considerate. When he got a scholarship to Duquesne, he felt he did what I wanted him to do.
“We're very proud of him.”
Larry Anselmino credited Veliky and former Ringgold Athletic Director Paul Zolak with working hard to help his son, who had scores of college scholarship offers.
Larry Anselmino said his most cherished memory of his son was his love and care of his family. He was there for his dad when Larry Anselmino battled cancer.
Brian Anselmino also was very close with his “pap,” his paternal grandfather, Felix Anselmino.
It was his grandfather's dream to see Brian Anselmino go to college on a scholarship. He realized that dream after Brian graduated from Ringgold, but passed away in 1987 before he got to see his grandson play for the Dukes.
When Anselmino graduated from Duquesne, he left a legacy of fans and friends.
“He was a sportsman when he played,” Larry Anselmino said. “He was just a great kid.”
On Sunday, many of Brian Anselmino's co-workers at Thoratec, where he worked as a territory manager, came to pay their respects to his family.
“They all said he always had a smile on his face and was a happy-go-lucky guy,” Larry Anselmino said.
“He was a good husband, good father, good son.
“I'm just going to miss him,” Larry Anselmino said. “He is our cherished memory.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.