Veteran assistant coaches lend guidance to WPIAL finalists
TribLIVE Sports Videos
With his white goatee, Mark Capuano doesn't look much different from his years walking Moon's sidelines.
But his approach has softened.
“I've got to admit it, I'm different,” said Capuano, 67, now an assistant coach at Sto-Rox. “If my old coaches watched me coach now, they'd say I mellowed. I don't know if I mellowed or just learned to be a different coach. Maybe I have mellowed since I'm not the head coach any more. I don't have to be the crazy guy.”
Capuano was Moon's head coach for 28 seasons and 143 victories, in two stints. His second run ended in 2008, but Capuano hasn't had an idle fall since. After one year at South Side Beaver, this was his fourth season as a Sto-Rox assistant.
And for the third consecutive season, Capuano will visit Heinz Field when the Vikings face North Catholic in the WPIAL Class A championship.
“The kids keep me young,” said Capuano, a Hall of Fame inductee by the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association.
His biggest coaching change hasn't been philosophical, but rather conversational.
“At Moon, I could yell at kids,” he said with a laugh. “Here, they don't respond to yelling. You're better off if you tell them what you want, show them and let it go. Otherwise, they turn you off. You can't get through. You can't communicate anymore.”
As a veteran coach, he adapted.
“He's a father figure not only to the players but also to me,” Sto-Rox coach Dan Bradley said. “I rely on him and bounce ideas off him. ... He's someone I look to for advice.”
All eight WPIAL teams visiting Heinz Field on Saturday have talented head coaches. West Allegheny's Bob Palko owns six WPIAL titles, and Woodland Hills' George Novak and Aliquippa's Mike Zmijanac have five. But all three credit a staff full of veteran assistants.
Novak has many assistants who've been with him for years, including Harvey Inglis, who followed him from Steel Valley. Larry Whiteherse, Jon Carter, Tim Bostard and Gene Donofrio also have assisted Woodland Hills for more than a decade.
“They know the program,” Novak said. “They know what I expect, and they know what to teach.”
Palko credits a former veteran assistant for the success the Indians experience today. Guy Rippole, who died in 2005, joined West Allegheny in 1996 for Palko's second season. Before then, Rippole coached at Sto-Rox, Montour and Duquesne University.
“It's really amazing to have a guy like that,” Palko said. “He taught us how to do it all. The reason we're good here is Guy Rippole. No doubt about it.”
Much of Palko's current staff was West Allegheny coaches when the Indians won their third consecutive WPIAL title in 2001, a list that includes Dan Marshall, Bryan Cornell, Mark Davis and Andy Barry.
“You can win with young assistants,” Palko said, “but that's harder.”
Bradley understands assistants' roles in building championship programs. He was one at Sto-Rox and later at South Fayette, which won the Class AA title in 2010.
“Dan has an excellent offensive mind,” Capuano said. “He really is good. I would hate to prepare defensively to go against him. What he does with (quarterback) Lenny (Williams) is amazing. I've learned a lot just watching him.”
Capuano, a holdover from Ron Butschle's staff, already was at Sto-Rox when Bradley was hired last season. The decision to keep Capuano as defensive coordinator was easy.
“It was a no-brainer,” Bradley said. “Sometimes new coaches don't surround themselves with people with experience. Sometimes they have confidence issues and want to be the smartest person in the room. That's not always the best way to go.”
Capuano won a WPIAL Class AAA title in 1998 and was voted the Parkway Conference's top coach four times. The Sto-Rox coaches meet at Capuano's house each Sunday night for dinner and film study, a tradition Capuano started while at Moon. He also shuttles some players home after practice.
“He's a guy who's been coaching and teaching for a long time,” Bradley said. “A lot of the circumstances or predicaments we'll be going through (for the first time), he's already been through three or four times.”
Capuano, who spends his winters in Florida, said his head coaching days are over. He's not sure how many more years he'll remain an assistant, but for now he's enjoying it.
“The nice thing about it is I can go home at night,” Capuano said. “I don't get the phone calls or deal with the politics or go to meetings or listen to parents. I can concentrate on game planning.”
Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- HS highlight reel: Bridgers star could be asset to Quips
- HS highlight reel: Central Catholic’s Joseph commits to PSU
- HS highlight reel: Bridgers star could be asset to Quips
- Monessen’s Rullo tabbed Player of Week
- Class AAA No. 2 Central Valley rips Quad-A No. 6 Penn Hills
- DC Picks: Tough games on the slate
- Central Catholic capitalizes on turnovers to down Connellsville
- Highlands wins thriller over Apollo-Ridge
- Ford City upsets No. 9 Shady Side Academy behind Walker’s 5 TDs
- WPIAL programs familiar with Carlynton’s player shortage
- Previewing some of the top Week 5 matchups in Western Pennsylvania