Longtime Clarion Area Teacher And Coach Dave Constantino To Be Inducted Into Punxsutawney Sports Hall Of Fame (10/28/19)

(Photos submitted) Above: The Constantinos (L-R) Kim, Kaitlyn, Alexis and Dave after Kaitlyn being crowned 2019 Clarion Area Homecoming Queen.

(Editor’s note: For those from this area wanting to attend the banquet, ticket information is at the bottom of the article.)

Dave Constantino, who is in his twenty-eighth year as a teacher at Clarion Area High, as well as a long-time coach in the school district and various other youth sports teams, will be among those inducted into the Punxsutawney Sports Hall of Fame, on Saturday, November 16th.

Dave will be inducted with fellow members of this 15th Induction Class, including, Rita Piszker Basile, Ralph Kunselman, Marcella Hughes McGaughey, Dr. Rodney White, Pat Mottorn Cressley (Posthumous), James Scarantine (Posthumous). They will be honored along with Chuck Daly “Lifetime Contributor Award” recipient Bill Sisk.

The Banquet will feature a Meet and Greet at 5:30PM and Dinner by Shannon’s Catering at 6:00PM at the Punxsutawney High School Cafe’, with an informal gathering at the Eagles after the Banquet.

Dave is a 1987 graduate of Punxsutawney where he was a three sport stand-out. He was a member of the basketball, golf and baseball teams.

Dave with looking to pass for the Chucks

Dave was a four-year letter winner in basketball and was a team captain, for Coach Bill Vassallo. He was the Chucks’ MVP in both his junior and senior years and was the team’s third all-timeleading scorer, with 1,276 points (including 40 points against Altoona). Dave was named a District Nine Basketball All-Star for three consecutive years. His prowess on the basketball court earned him a four year scholarship to Mercyhurst College, where he played from 1988-92.

Coach Vassillo had this to say about his former star athlete, “He is so deserving.

“Dave played basketball for me for four years.  As a freshman, he played a great deal of varsity basketball at a time when very few freshman were playing on the varsity team.  It happens more often these days. He was a starter for three years.

“Dave was a 6’ 3 shooting guard for the Chucks.  He worked very hard during the season and off season to become a very good player.  His offensive skills were developed through many hours in the gym.  He was a hard working player with a great attitude and enthusiasm. He was a team player and a good leader both on and off the court. 

“He also excelled in the classroom.

“His 40 points against Altoona ranks as one of the highest single game point totals in Chuck basketball.  Ironically, the game before his 40 point output against Altoona, he did not record a field goal and finished with 11 points on 11 of 11 from the free throw line.  Good team player.”

In concluding, Coach Vassallo said, “He truly made my job easier because not only was he a great player but he was and is a great person that continues to be a role model for his family and students.  He truly deserves to be a member of the Punxsutawney High School Hall of Fame.  I am so proud of what he did for our school and community, what he did at Mercyhurst University and what he has done at Clarion High School.”  

A three-year letter winner in golf, Dave was the team MVP as a sophomore. An interesting note: Dave hit a hole-in-one, on his first shot on the first hole of his first varsity match, as a freshman. Dave was coached by the late Gale Shields.

Dave was a three-year letterman in baseball, playing for Coach John Knopick and was the recipient of the Army Scholar Athlete Award. 

Dave at the plate for Punxsutawney

Coach Knopick shared that, “Dave was always a very good defensive baseball player. He was a two year starter at shortstop. He had soft hands, a strong arm and good range. He was a student of the game and a very intelligent and savvy baseball player. He was a very coachable baseball player being a good listener and a hard worker.

“His senior year, he blossomed as a hitter. Dave led the team in hitting with a batting average of over .300, he also led the team in hits and runs scored. He batted third in the lineup and as a junior varsity player he had a .517 batting average.”

Coach Knopick mentioned something of Dave’s leadership and hard work, “Dave was a unselfish team player, the saying, ‘there is no I in TEAM,’  exemplifies the character, attitude, demeanor and work ethic which Dave possessed.  He was a leader, who led by example both on and off the baseball diamond.

“He was a great role model for the underclassmen by setting an example of how to prepared for practice and games.  When arrived for practice he was ready to work on improving his baseball skills. He was usually one of the first players to arrive at practice and one of the last ones to leave at the end of practice. Dave worked hard, played hard and enjoyed his time on the field playing the game.”

And some things about Dave’s attitude as an athlete, “Dave was the type of athlete who respected the game of baseball.  The acronym ROOTS demonstrates the sportsmanship he displayed as a player. Dave respected the Rules, Opponents, Officials, Teammates, and Self. If an umpire called Dave out on strikes when batting, Dave did not say a word. He would hustle back to the dugout, get his glove and cap and get ready to go back out on the field to play defense. His character and behavior never got the best of him.”

Coach Knopick added, “I am honored to have been a small part of your journey to success. It was a pleasure to have worked with a quality individual who worked hard, and this nomination into the Punxsutawney Sports Hall of Fame is a recognition which you surely deserve. Congratulations on this achievement.”

Playing basketball as a freshman at Mercyhurst, Dave hit on 8 three point field goals in one game which broke the Laker’s single-game record. He was the Lakers all-time career leader for 3-pointers with 162.  He was also named senior male athlete of the year. 

Newspaper clipping: Dave shooting the ball for Mercyhurst

Dave, who teaches Social Studies at Clarion Area has had a great impact on young men and women throughout the years. And his positive influence has also been felt in both Clarion Area School District athletics and other youth sports over the years.

He was the Bobcat boys varsity basketball coach from 1992-95. He coached the varsity golf team for ten years and the junior high girls basketball team for three years. Dave was Clarion’s Assistant Athletic Director for three years.

He has been a volunteer coach for the Lady Cats softball team for four years.

Photos by Kim Constantino) Lady Cats 2nd Place District Nine, Class-A, PIAA State Quarterfinalists (Dave – back row on left)

Clarion Area Head Coach Dan Shofestall had these words of congratulations for his friend, “I would like to congratulate Dave on his upcoming induction into the Punxsutawney High School Sports Hall of Fame. I’m sure it is a special feeling for Dave to be recognized and honored by the school and community that he grew up in. For sure, it is a great lifetime achievement and something that Dave and his family can be very proud of. 

“Every once in a while we all think back to our youthful days in life and high school and I’m sure that being named to his his school’s Hall of Fame will rekindle many of the precious memories and moments Dave had with teammates, coaches, friends, family and the Punxsutawney school that he will proudly represent upon his induction.

“Congratulations once again Dave.”

Around the community, Dave spent thirteen years coaching various divisions of Little League, Little League t-ball, Minor League softball, and Little League softball.

He also has helped coach the Tri-City Thunder travel softball team for five years.

Tri-City Thunder in 2017 (Dave: back row – center)

Dave shared his thoughts on coaching young athletes, “I have enjoyed coaching at all levels, in all different sports.  What is most rewarding is building relationships with players and watching them grow into mature young adults.  I believed my job as a coach, whether it be in Little League or at the high school level, was to serve as a role model in terms of how to carry themselves on and off the playing surfaces.  Wins and losses don’t define a player’s involvement in a program, but rather what kind of person that player becomes and how do they treat others.”

Dave has numerous individuals that he wants to thank, beginning with the most important individual, “First and foremost, I would like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Without my personal relationship with Christ none of this would be possible. 

“The three reasons why this opportunity was made available to me was because of both of my parents (Anthony and Mary) and my brother Brad. 

“My parents were tremendous role models for me; they worked hard and they served the Lord.  They always made sure that my uniforms were washed and that I knew that the coach was always right.  Work hard and good things will happen. 

“My brother helped make me the athlete I became.  He pushed me harder than anyone else and was always my number one fan.  He helped in my recruiting process in high school by making phone calls and dubbing VCR tapes. 

“I was truly lucky to grow up with the family I had.  I also would like to thank other members of my family who came to all of the games and were always there for me.”

Dave’s thanks extend to his sports mentors, “I would also like to thank the number of coaches, from elementary through junior high and eventually up through high school, who all played an integral part in shaping me into the person I am today.”

He had special thank for his three varsity coaches, “Bill Vassallo for basketball, John Knopick for baseball and the late Gale Shields for golf. I had a tremendous amount of respect for all three coaches. They were good coaches who cared about their players.  Coach Vassallo had the biggest influence on me in terms of my coaching philosophy.  Coach Vassallo always had his teams prepared for their opponents, with huge scouting reports and video tapes. I still keep in contact with today him. I have the utmost respect for him and what he was able to do for me as a player and person.”

And for his fine family, “Finally, I would like to thank my wife, Kim, and my amazing kids Michael, Alexis, and Kaitlyn.  I would like to thank Kim for always being the rock of the family and sometimes even helping out as an assistant coach. Dinners would be late and uniforms needed to be washed and Kim made it happen. 

“I was fortunate enough to coach all three of my children and I would not trade that experience for the world.  If you would ask me what I am most proud of, I would say how all three of my kids turned out.  Michael, Alexis, and Kaitlyn all had a personal relationship Christ, who sought to serve the Lord by helping others in any way that necessary.  Michael went to be with the Lord at age 7 and Alexis and Kaitlyn continue to make a difference in their areas of influence.” 

As for his receiving this great honor and his great hometown, “I was truly humbled when I received notification of being inducted into the Punxsutawney Sports Hall of Fame.  I loved growing up in the town of Punxsutawney.  The people there really embody what is great about being “smalltown America.”  They love and support their schools and athletic teams.  I feel quite fortunate to have received the education and the coaching from the Punxsutawney Area School District.”

“In conclusion, I truly am humbled by the induction, but I know it took a whole village for it to happen.”

I would like to close this article by saying Dave Constantino and his wife Kim are two of the finest people you could ever want to meet. They selflessly have given to the kids of this area for years. And for me personally, I can not say how much gratitude I have for them for the vast amount of articles and photos that they have made available to Clarion Sports Zone, all for the kids. Thank you very much. Congratulations to Dave, Kim and family and to all those who have had a part in Dave’s getting this recognition.

And big thank you to all those who have contributed to this article, the coaches for their quotes, Brad Constantino and Patti Fallara who provided contact information for Punxsutawney coaches and a special Shout Out to Patti for providing me with the background material from the Punxsutawney Hall of Fame.

Banquet Information: Tickets for the event are $25.00; children under 5 are free; ages 6-12 – $12.50 and are available from the high school office, Frank’s Star Lunch or any Hall of Fame Committee member until Wednesday, Nov. 13th.  Previous Inductees are encouraged to attend.  There will be an informal gathering at the Eagles after the banquet.

For folks from this area wanting to attend, you can contact Patti Fallara the Punxsutawney High School office, by calling: 938-5151 ext. 1000.