Doin’ Dunmore: U of S hires Lady Bucks coach Ben O’Brien

By Steve Svetovich

Where will a 347-43 record in 14 high school girls basketball seasons get you?

Besides two PIAA championships and 10 district titles, it helped get Ben O’Brien the position of head basketball coach for the University of Scranton Lady Royals.

The veteran Dunmore girls basketball coach was named the eighth head coach of the University of Scranton Lady Royals Tuesday, July 26.

He replaces Nick DiPillo whose Lady Royals teams went 58-8 in three seasons. DiPillo accepted an assistant coaching position at the University of Pittsburgh in June.

“We are very happy for Ben,” said John Marichak, superintendent of Dunmore School District. “We are sorry to be losing such a great teacher, coach and role model. His efforts and contributions to the students of Dunmore are appreciated and will be missed.”

The University of Scranton’s search committee interviewed eight candidates remotely before inviting the top four to campus.

O’Brien’s 347-43 coaching record at Dunmore is remarkable and now legendary.

Dunmore senior standout Ciera Toomey, who has committed to the University of Connecticut after she graduates in 2023, commented on the loss of her coach. “I am so happy for coach O’Brien because he really deserves this,” she said.

“He has done so much for our Lady Bucks program. We will really miss him this season and going forward, but the University of Scranton got a great one. I am really excited to see what he is going to accomplish there.

“I am so thankful for everything he has done for me and all the girls who went through the program.

“I think it’s safe to say the University of Scranton just got a lot more fans from Dunmore.”

The University of Scranton’s athletic director is Dave Martin, whose daughter Maddie was a 1,500-point scorer for Dunmore under O’Brien from 2013 to 2017.

O’Brien, 42, developed a dynasty at Dunmore. The Lady Bucks won at least 21 games 13 times in O’Brien’s 14 years there. The only exception was the COVID-19 shortened 2020-21 season when the Lady Bucks finished 15-1.

O’Brien led Dunmore to 13 league championships and 10 district titles with 13 state tournament appearances. Dunmore won at least one state playoff game in every appearance and reached the quarterfinals 10 times.

O’Brien earned The Associated Press Class 2A Coach of the Year in 2011 and The Times-Tribune Coach of the Year in 2011 and 2019.

O’Brien plans to resign as social studies teacher at Dunmore.

He leaves a lasting legacy and inherits a Lady Royals program that has won seven straight Landmark Conference Championships and advanced to the Sweet 16 last season with a 27-3 record.

Dunmore sophomore Sophia Talutto is one of the talented players O’Brien leaves behind. “Obviously, I am very happy for him and do think he deserves this,” she said. “It is upsetting to see him go somewhere else, but it is an amazing opportunity for him that he couldn’t pass up.

“Coach O’Brien put countless hours into the Lady Bucks program. It truly shows how much of an impact he made.

“I am very excited to see him grow in the collegiate level and wish him the best of luck at the University of Scranton.”

Students recognized at UNICO scholarship dinner

Gabrielle Case is the recipient of the Inaugural Kovatch/Perna Family Trades Scholarship presented by Dunmore’s Keystone Chapter UNICO during its 11th annual scholarship dinner at La Buona Vita. 

Front row, seated from left:  Jeffrey Case, recipient’s father; Jordan Case, her brother; honoree Gabrielle Case of the Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County and her mother Justine Case. 

Back row, same order: Keystone UNICO Scholarship Director Sandy Collins, Principal Dr. Karla Carlucci of the Career Technology Center; scholarship provider Gene-O Perna; Yolanda Martinelli, Cosmetology Instructor at CTC., and scholarship provider Tony Kovatch.

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Rocco Mack is the recipient of the Keystone UNICO Family Scholarship.  Shown in the front row, from left:  Jim and Mary Mack Sr., grandparents; Honoree Rocco Mack of Holy Cross High School;. and Joellen Mack, mother. Back row, from left: Sandy Collins, Keystone UNICO Scholarship Director; James Mack Jr., father; and Anthony Mack, brother.

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Scholarship awardees who attended the annual Keystone UNICO Awards Dinner are, front row, from left: Dunmore High School’s Olivia Amico receiving the Frank and Mary Ann Coviello Military Family Appreciation Scholarship; Dunmore High School’s Micah Madrazo receiving the Keystone Chapter Service Award, and Gabrielle Case receiving the inaugural Career Technology Center Kovatch/Perna Family Trade Award. 

Back row, same order: Keystone Chapter Scholarship Director Sandy Collins; Dunmore High School’s Joseph Cardillo, receiving the Brian Piccolo Athletic Award; Holy Cross High School’s Ryan Legg receiving the Keystone Chapter Service Award; and Keystone Chapter UNICO President Mary Ann Coviello. 

Missing from photo are Rocco Mack of Holy Cross receiving the Keystone UNICO Family Award; Sophia Calzola of Carbondale Area H.S., receiving the Keystone Brian Piccolo Award; and Marilyn Vitali, Brian Piccolo Awards Chairman.  

Camp Healing Hearts now underway

Hospice of the Sacred Heart will host Camp Healing Hearts, a five-day camp Aug. 1-5 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. to provide grief education to children ages 8 to 14 who have experienced the death of a loved one. 

Children work with trained bereavement counselors and members of the regional arts community to help them progress towards acceptance of the loss and use the arts as a means of self-expression. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 Camp Healing Hearts will be conducted safely via Zoom Video Conferencing. Jennifer Seechock, Hospice of the Sacred Heart Director of Counseling Services, will be available throughout the week for media interviews. 

The five-day camp is free and is made up of two back-to-back 60-minute instructional sessions each day to provide a sense of routine, consistency and ultimately closure for the entire process. Each session utilizes a different theme explored through the arts. Bereavement counselors will be available throughout the week if any campers or family members require individual support. 

Community volunteers lend their time to campers with artistic projects in painting, writing, photography, yoga, dance, singing and cooking/baking. Friday’s session will be held in person at Montage Mountain Waterpark. Social distancing will be observed. 

A video retrospective of Camp Healing Hearts will be presented before the feature film at the Circle Drive-In, 1911 Scranton Carbondale Highway, Dickson City, on a date to be determined. 

Jennifer Seechock is Director of Counseling Services for Hospice of the Sacred Heart.

Hospice of the Sacred Heart is a not-for-profit, free standing hospice program serving Northeastern Pennsylvania since 2004. The main office is located in Moosic, with an Inpatient Unit located in Dunmore. 

Care was provided for over 1,000 patients in 2021 and over 18,000 to date. Hospice of the Sacred Heart employs approximately 120 employees throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania. Volunteers provided over 2,000 hours of support to patients and families in 2021. Most volunteer activities were suspended in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, visit www.HospiceSacredHeart.org