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.”

Diocese and University of Scranton Sign Memorandum

University admissions

Gathered for the signing ceremony are, front row, from left: Jason W.S. Morrison, diocesan secretary of Catholic education and chief executive officer, Diocese of Scranton; Rebekah Bernard, information and technology specialist for admissions and enrollment, University of Scranton; Gerry Zaboski, vice president for enrollment management and external affairs, University of Scranton. Second row: Joseph Roback, associate vice provost for admissions and enrollment, University of Scranton; Benjamin Tolerico, principal, Holy Cross High School; Jeffrey Lyons, principal, Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High School; Alisia McNamee, principal, St. John Neumann Jr./Sr. High School; Kristen Donohue, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Diocese of Scranton; Doreen Dougherty, principal, Holy Redeemer High School; Mary Kay Aston, assistant vice provost for admissions and enrollment, University of Scranton.

The University of Scranton and the Diocese of Scranton have signed a memorandum of understanding that will guarantee admission and minimum scholarships of $15,000 or more to the University for graduates of Catholic high schools in the Diocese who meet eligibility requirements. 

The memorandum will grant admission to most majors at the University to graduates of Holy Cross High School, Holy Redeemer High School, Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High School and St. John Neumann Jr./Sr. High School, who have a minimum GPA 3.00 and either a 1080 SAT (EBRW and math) or a 21 ACT composite score, or higher, and meet other criteria. 

Students who meet the eligibility requirements will receive, at minimum, an annual $15,000 scholarship to the University with a total value of $60,000. The agreement will take effect for most majors beginning with the 2020-21 academic year.

Graduates of Diocese of Scranton high schools wishing to enroll in the University’s entry-level programs for occupational therapy (5-year master’s program), nursing (bachelor’s degree) and Doctor of Physical Therapy (guaranteed seat for 7-year program) must have a minimum GPA of 3.50 and either a 1270 SAT (EBRW and math) or a 27 ACT composite score, and meet other criteria. Students who meet the eligibility requirements will receive, at minimum, an annual $18,000 scholarship to the University with a total value of $72,000. The agreement for these majors will take effect beginning with the 2021-22 academic year.

“The Diocese of Scranton and The University of Scranton have a shared mission of educating young men and women in the Catholic tradition in an environment that is both academically excellent and grounded in service to others. This agreement is a tremendous opportunity for students in all four of our Diocesan high schools to seamlessly continue their education, becoming tomorrow’s faith-filled leaders,” said Jason W.S. Morrison, diocesan secretary of Catholic education and chief executive officer, Diocese of Scranton.

“The agreement we sign today guarantees admission into The University of Scranton for even our most competitive programs. In signing it, we honor and reward the sacrifice that families make to invest in a Catholic education and show our great respect for the preparation provided by the dedicated teachers, staff and administrators of the Diocese of Scranton,” said Gerry Zaboski, vice president for enrollment management and external affairs at the University. He added that the agreement “recognizes just how wonderful the students are, how hard they work and how consistently they thrive at the finest colleges in our nation, especially here at The University of Scranton.”

The University also has guaranteed admission agreements with Bishop McDevitt High School, Harrisburg; Trinity High School, Camp Hill; York Catholic High School, York; and John S. Burke Catholic High School, Goshen, New York.

For more information about the memorandum of understanding, contact Diocese of Scranton Catholic Schools Office at 570-207-2251, or Rebekah Bernard, information and technology specialist for admissions and enrollment at The University of Scranton, at or 570-941-5918.


Dunmoreans of the Month: Patti and Bob Montalbano

patti and bob. maltabanojpgThe Scranton Chapter UNICO National has announced that Patti and Bob Montalbano of Dunmore will be honored as the UNICANS of the Year for 2018 at the organization’s annual Charity Ball to be held Saturday, Feb. 23, at Genetti’s Manor, Dickson City.

Melanie Naro, chapter president, made the announcement, saying, “The Montalbano’s have been a terrific volunteer team since they joined.” Ms. Naro said. “We are thrilled to honor them for their contributions.”  

Mary Marrara, Charity Ball chairperson, added, “We are thrilled to honor them for their contributions.” She notes that the event is open to the public. Reservations are required and may be made by calling (570) 499-1534, or contacting Ms. Naro, Chris DiMattio or any Scranton UNICO member.

Patti Montalbano was born in Scranton, daughter of Alfonso Giambrone,  and the late Lucy Coviello Giambrone. She graduated from St. Anthony of Padua Grade School, Dunmore; St. Paul’s High School, Scranton, and received her Registered Nurse diploma from Mercy Hospital School of Nursing, Scranton, University of Scranton and a bachelor of science degree from Trinity University.

Certified by the National Nurse Certification Association, Patti’s hospital nursing career was spent in Obstetrics, Newborn Nurseries, and the Neonatal ICU.   She then moved on to Community Health Nursing at the Pennsylvania Department of Health. She was a member of several health-related networking groups in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties.  She also was a part-time Hospital Clinical Instructor in Newborn Care at Penn State University’s Scranton Campus. Patti retired from the Pennsylvania Department of Health as the School Health Consultant (covering 59 school districts) following 25 years of service.

Patti joined the Ladies Auxiliary to the Scranton Chapter UNICO National in 2006 and then the Chapter proper in 2009. Committed to the work of the Auxiliary, Patti, with the help of other dedicated members and support of  the Board of Directors of the Scranton Chapter, was instrumental in the reorganization of the Ladies Auxiliary in 2011-2012. She was president of the Auxiliary, serving for three consecutive years, She then joined the Auxiliary Board of Directors and was chosen again to be president.   

unicoFor her service, Patti received the Al Dante Award in 2012, which recognizes extraordinary volunteerism and service. Assisted by her husband, Patti cochairs the Scranton UNICO Friday Bake Sale at St. Joseph’s Center Summer Festival.   

Bob Maltalbano was also born in Scranton, son of the late Pellegrino and Lucy DeMaio Montalbano. Bob attended Dunmore schools, graduating in 1963 from Dunmore Senior High School. Bob served proudly for four years in the United States Air Force stationed at Bunker Hill Air Force Base, Indiana, where B58 bombers were maintained and training flights were performed during the Vietnam War.  

After discharge, he was employed by Printcraft and Spotless Cleaners, then went on to employment at Emery Worldwide as the Mail/Communications Office Supervisor.  While at Emery, Bob was on the Board of the NE Postal Customer Council.

During this time, Bob organized an annual golf tournament with the proceeds going to St. Francis Kitchen, Scranton and St. Vincent dePaul Kitchen, Wilkes Barre. Bob retired after 33 years at Emery.

Bob joined UNICO in 2004 and quickly became active in working to support fundraising efforts.  After learning from the best, Pat Yanni, Bob took over the organization of cooking the porketta for the Scranton UNICO stand at LaFesta Italiana. He continues to enjoy cooking and slicing with the team of dedicated men and women.  

Bob also served on the Board of Directors for several years.  He received the Chapter’s Presidential Award in 2015. Bob served as a Presidential Aide to Chris DiMattio, during his tenure as UNICO National President in 2010-11, accompanying Chris on his travels to many UNICO National events throughout the year.

Bob and Patti met each other during the winter of 1968 and were married during a snowstorm in November, 1969, in St. Anthony of Padua Church, Dunmore.   The ceremony was performed by Rev. John Turi, then Chaplain of Mercy Hospital. They continue to be parishioners of St. Anthony’s where Bob is a member of the Holy Name of Jesus Society. Patti is a member of the Altar and Rosary  Society and serves as an Extraordinary Minister of Communion at Mass and to the home bound.

Bob and Patti are the proud parents of daughter Lori Montalbano Nozzi and her husband, Michael Nozzi, and grandparents to puppy, Lola. Bob has two brothers Benjamin, John (deceased) and a sister, Santa. Their daughter, Lori, is also an active, dedicated member of Scranton UNICO and the Ladies Auxiliary.