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Italian-American Hall of Fame inducts its 2017 class

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The Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame topped off a busy sports weekend in the city Sunday with its 31st annual banquet at the Westin William Penn.
The NIASHF has awarded scholarships to nearly 200 high school seniors, and the latest four — Mohawk’s Pablo Salazar, Peter Township’s Daniel Florentino, Laurel’s Mykenzie Davey and Slippery Rock’s Mari Reott – deservedly sat atop the dias.
I have to admit: I go to these events for the speeches, and I was honored to receive an invitation to sit in the audience to hear them. The 10 honorees spoke from the heart, telling the interesting tales of their lives, proud of what they accomplished and the roots from which they grew.
The 2017 group included:
Ryan Matsook (Coach of the Year), who led Beaver Falls to WPIAL and PIAA football championships last year.
Danny Pacella (Lifetime Achievement), who was Dan Marino’s quarterback coach at Central Catholic and later won 395 games as basketball coach at Central and McKeesport.
Carmella Mullen (Community Achievement), who serves on several community boards, volunteering her time and talents.
E.J. Borghetti (Dominic T. Roppa Award), who is in his 20th year as executive associate athletic director/media relations at Pitt where he has promoted 10 first-team All-Americans. No one loves his school like E.J. loves his school.
Richard L. Caponi (Organized Labor Award). a longtime labor leader representing more than 8,000 workers.
Dr. Richard Saladino (Medical Professional), Professor of Pediatrics at Pitt’s School of Medicine.
Jerry Bergman (Pittsburgh Legend), whose 30 years as an NFL official is the second-longest tenure in league history.
Bo Pelini (Sportsman of the Year), the head football coach at Youngstown State.
Joe Azzaro (Hall of Fame inductee), a Central Catholic graduate and former Notre Dame kicker, whose field goal beat Pitt, 17-15, in 1964. Azzaro was the first kicking specialist recruited by the Irish.
Dan Onorato (Man of the Year), who was a two-term Allegheny County Chief Executive and whose loyalties are often split after earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from Penn State and a law degree from Pitt.
A couple of highlights:
— Pelini, who lost to Pitt in Pat Narduzzi’s first game as a head coach in 2015, paid tribute to Narduzzi’s father, Bill, a former YSU head coach and a posthumous NIASHF Hall of Fame inductee two years ago. Pitt’s coach was seated in the audience with his wife, Donna.
Bill Narduzzi was YSU football,” Pelini said. “I could coach for the rest of my career and never do for YSU what Bill Narduzzi did.”
— Finally, Onorato hit me where I live when he talked about Sunday dinners attended by 30 or 40 family members, a staple of Italian families (including mine). While listening to Onorato’s speech, I could smell the sauce simmering on grandma’s stove.

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