Even though Seton LaSalle experienced back-to-back losing seasons, Mauro Monz of South Fayette views the task as his alma mater’s latest head football coach as that of reviving rather than rebuilding the program.
A member of a Rebels team that reached the WPIAL semifinals almost 30 years ago, Monz said he intends to recapture that “lightning in a bottle” that produced six district titles, a dozen conference championships and three appearances in the state finals in the program’s storied past.
“We’re not rebuilding, not trying to be on the map. We are on the map. We have the tradition and history,” he said. “We have been to the pinnacle. Our vision is our past.
“From uniforms to coaches to players, we are going to evaluate the current program with enthusiasm and a positivity. Our mind set and the identity we see for our team is back to the future. We are looking for a resurgence of the program.”
Before Monz became the school’s third coach in three seasons, the Rebels had fallen on hard times. They were 2-7 in 2019 and 1-6 in 2020.
As a player, Monz knows what it is like to rally around another SLS alumni that resurrected the Rebels. He played for Greg Gattuso, who guided SLS to three playoff appearances, a WPIAL title in 1990 and a PIAA runner-up showing before moving on to the college ranks. After 12 seasons at Duquesne University and a 97-32 record, Gattuso moved on the University of Albany.
Monz said aside from meeting his wife, Dana, who was an SLS cheerleader, playing at the school provided him with some of his fondest memories.
Monz said he learned a great deal from Gattuso and his staff, which included Bob Palko, now at Mt. Lebanon after winning eight district championships at West Allegheny, Central Catholic’s Terry Totten and Lou Cerro, who played and coached successfully at SLS before turning Montour into a champion.
“Legendary,” Monz said of SLS’s 1991 coaching staff. “Great memories.”
“Thirty years ago this fall, I was the quarterback and what other way to express tradition as for these kids to see one of their own back here trying to help the school. Who wouldn’t want to be part to that — the energy and be enthused about it?”
After his playing days at Duquesne University, where he twice gained All-Metro Conference and All-America acclaim as a defensive back, Monz became enthralled with coaching.
His first assignment was as an assistant to Joe Walton in 1997 at Robert Morris University. He helped the Colonials win five NEC titles.
His 25-year coaching career includs stints at Duquesne, Akron, Carlynton, Mt. Lebanon and Baldwin high schools. He also became the youngest head coach at any level in the country at West Virginia University Institute of Technology in 2003.
“Football is such a great game. It has given so much to me,” Monz said, noting he earned both a bachelor’s and masters degree during his playing days. “It’s done everything to me and the life lessons learned are innumerable.
“Football teaches you leadership, discipline, tenacity. It gives you a combination of all that. It’s the ultra, camaraderie sport. If I can help the next young kid gain that and maybe help them get into a school, then I think that will make me be a success in this position.”
With 30 players on roster, Monz’s immediate objective is to “generate enthusiasm” to increase the numbers. The school has scheduled an introductory meeting with the new coach for Dec. 10.
Monz said he is working on putting together a “quality” supporting staff and establish an offseason strength-and-conditioning program.
“We are hoping to wake a sleeping giant,” he said. “We want to develop players and instill in them a strong work ethic as well as provide a vision. We want to get the kids and parents to trust in me but it’s a two-way street. We also want to gain the support of alumni and reconnect with them.
“Obviously, we want to have a resurgence in the community,” he added. “Bridge our history and catch fire among those in the community. Get them on board and channel their enthusiasm. Hopefully all of that brings success.”