The walls of the St. John Neumann gymnasium are lined with banners paying tribute to the feats its athletes have achieved throughout the school’s history. However, as a result of recent action taken by the school, all current and future Neumann basketball players will be playing on a court named in honor of a man that never coached a team, won a game, or made a basket at the Penn Street facility.
St. John Neumann recognized longtime Athletic Director Frank Lupacchino by renaming its basketball court in his honor during pre-game ceremonies on February 3.
A 21-year Air Force veteran, Lupacchino was instrumental in starting Little League programs in England and Italy and served as the European Director for LLB while stationed in Germany. For the past 22 years, he served as SJN’s athletic director until stepping down from the position this past December.
“This is something I never expected. I don’t do things to get recognition, and I’d prefer to stay in the background as much as possible. I do it because I like it. But to have them name the court after me is truly something very special. To tell you the truth, I don’t know why they did it. I was overwhelmed by what happened,” he revealed.
“Until just a few days prior to the court dedication, I didn’t know anything about it. The work was done by the same man who installed a new floor here a couple of years ago when we had water damage. He did a great job with that. For this, they took my signature and transposed it onto the floor.”
With sports entrenched into his DNA, the AD’s job seemed a natural fit.
“After I retired from the Air Force, I wasn’t looking to find a normal job,” Lupacchino explained. “I wanted to be someplace where I could relax, enjoy myself, be involved with sports, and work with kids. In some form or another, I’ve been involved with kids and sports all my life. The AD position gave me a chance to continue doing that.”
Lupacchino’s dedication proved to be a godsend for St. John Neumann.
“When I first came here, they offered me a salary and said there would be a certain amount for an assistant. I told them to take what that salary may be and put it in the athletic account so we could buy needed equipment. I had a paid assistant for a few years, but after that, I just kept doing the job myself as a volunteer.
“The AD role is a lot faster now than it used to be. In some ways, it is not as enjoyable with respect to players, coaches, and spectators. There is a different atmosphere now with cyber stuff and all the other things kids have to go through and are involved with. It is not the cohesive type of sports program that it used to be. Everybody used to want to go out and play sports or go to a game and be involved. In my opinion, some of that involvement has changed, and for me, it has taken some of the enjoyment out of the game.
“Running a high school athletic program is really involved. We are a small school at SJN, and I don’t understand how some of these other athletic directors at bigger schools, some of whom are also teachers, have the time to get the job done. Our sports programs are relatively small compared to the larger public schools. The AD’s job is very involved, and there are always constant changes taking place. It’s not just game schedules you have to deal with. Scheduling the buses, ordering equipment, taking care of the facilities, scheduling officials and game workers, and dealing with the day-to-day requests of the coaches definitely keeps you busy.”
Lupacchino was a driving force behind the formation of co-op programs with local public school districts.
“We have a lot of kids here that are interested in different sports, and with our small numbers, we don’t have enough to field our own teams. I’ve had good relations with the other ADs and contacted several schools about co-op programs. We’ve worked with South Williamsport in track & field and boys’ tennis and with Loyalsock in both track & field and football. Loyalsock loves that football co-op. Over the years, we have had some outstanding athletes play football at Sock. Two seasons ago, we had ten players playing football there at the JV and varsity levels; this past year, we had four.”
As for memories, like Frank Sinatra — he’s had a few.
“The first year I got here, our basketball program was down in the dumps. The year previous, we only won one or two games. That became my first priority. We worked to get some good coaches in and established some training programs for both players and coaches to strengthen the basketball program. I have a lot of background in baseball, and we began to try and upgrade our baseball program as much as we could.
“We also put greater emphasis on the girls’ programs that included basketball, softball, soccer, and the junior high programs. It’s not easy, and it keeps you busy. I admire all these other ADs who have a lot more on their plates than I did.”
With time now on his hands, the man called Luppy admitted, “That will be a problem.”
“I’m already going a bit stir-crazy trying to find things to do. It’s hard to readjust. It’s a bit like coming out of the service. It’s a big adjustment in your life. I’ll continue to follow the team, go to other sports activities, and keep myself as active as possible.”