Good Talk: Mr. Bozzuto

Kara Mihm, Staff Writer

What were you like during high school?

I was a scholar-athlete, played three sports, and was very confident in what I did. I played football, and I wrestled. I played basketball, not on a school team, but I played continually. I loved basketball.

How did you land the job at North Allegheny?

I started teaching back in 1979, a long time ago. I taught at different levels, coached three sports, and became an athletic administrator. We did a great job at Franklin Regional, which put me in the position to be able to interview and successfully get the position here. I had coaches like Mrs. McClure in diving there, and then of course, we brought her here.

What exactly does your job entail?

My job really takes a look at soup to nuts. That’s in terms of making sure that the young people have their equipment. I organize every facet of the competition: organize workers, make sure we have officials, transportation, budgeting, practice schedules–everything is written, typed in, and so forth so that we can prepare for practice and not have two teams in one location. There is a great deal of work that has to get done.

How do you handle angry parents?

I will tell you, all parents are great. There are times where it is very difficult, but I embrace it. At least it gives me the opportunity to talk to the parent, to let them know that maybe that their perception is not fact. Or that there are a lot of things that go into a decision. I don’t like when people say that it is political—that to me is an excuse. We are here for our students. I am not here to hurt anyone. I am here to help, assist, and provide a great opportunity for students through high school, their activities, and most importantly, their academics. We are not here to hurt anybody. When you get to high school, we are here to play the best. It is up to our coaches to make those decisions, and the players are evaluated based on the decisions that are made. So I don’t put up with the “political” comment, because someone just has the position because they are the best.

Who was your childhood hero?

It is hard to think of one, but it would be my mom and dad. In an Italian family, your mother is huge—even though my mom was only 5’2’’ and 105 pounds. My hands are bigger than her face. She is my hero.

What is your proudest accomplishment at NA?

My proudest accomplishment at North Allegheny—and this would be a group thing—is the people that we have as our head coaches. They are awesome. You take a look at our head coaches and what we have been able to assemble. They provide so much to our student-athletes. We have a philosophy, and they go out and do it. They do a tremendous job preparing young people for life, not just sports. When it is time for them to get a job, they are going to hire them. They will be hired because they were successful student-athletes who know life’s peaks and valleys. They know that to get out of the valleys, you work harder, and when they are at the peak, they want to stay there. That is what we are about. Every single day, in all of our programs, we have great people who are leading. They are the best in the business. 

If you could play on any current NA team, which one would it be?

It is hard for me to say because I played a number of sports. I have always said that the best-conditioned athletes are wrestlers, but there is also one other group that is by far also on top of that mountain — swimmers.  Though I am not very good at swimming, I would love to be on our swimming team because I am all about dedication. I am up early—five o’clock is right up my alley. 

Do you ever wear anything other than your black shirt and black pants?

It is like Tiger Woods on game day. I like to wear black on black when I go to away tournaments. At my meeting today, I wore black on black because we just won our volleyball and lacrosse games. I didn’t realize that people noticed what I wear, especially opposing teams. I wear my North Allegheny shirts everywhere. Like the New York Yankees, like Notre Dame, we have a certain mystique about us. I love it because it is a statement of excellence academically, athletically, and in the arts.

Who is the most impressive athlete that you have seen come through NA?

Wow, this is so tough because I have seen so many great ones. Let me just say that the senior class this year… I take a look at Khalil Dinkins. I’d say that Khalil Dinkins is one of the most talented young individuals that I know. And this is my 42nd year here, but it is the entire group. We may not be the biggest or strongest, but we are the most focused. Our heart is so big that I believe that we can overcome anything. As long as the score starts 0-0, we are the favorite. That is why people love to beat us. I think that the Morningstars, the Millers, the Dinkins… I could go on and on. Just take a look at the list of people in our hall of fame—they are phenomenal. Alex Papson was another who was relatively small but very determined. I take a look at Rick Mihm and Connor Kuremsky. The people that we have had are just phenomenal people. Joey Guzzetti was a football player and a wrestler who passed away quite a few years ago. Coming into my new job and a new place, there were two people that embraced me coming here. He was one of them. His personality was unbelievable. He made me feel comfortable even when I was the one who was supposed to make him feel that way. The other one was Brittany Glass. She and her mother made me feel so welcome. The Faillas, the Baierls, the Wrights—that is what makes North Allegheny. When looking at success, we just continue to build that foundation so that we can continue to improve.

What would most people be surprised to learn about you?

I wish I could sing. They would have to cover my voice if I tried to be in a choir. People think that because I am an athletic director, that I am all about athletics, but it is academics first. That is why I am most proud of our scholar-athlete program. I wish I could be in the fine arts and be able to do what our young people do here. They are amazing. They sing so beautifully. They act high above the high school level. I have great respect for the arts. I believe in the three A’s: academics, athletics, and arts. I would love to be able to sing, but I can’t.

What are your favorite songs?
I am older, but I like pop—the present stuff—but I also listen to the oldies—The Carpenters and Fleetwood Mac. Before I had life-saving heart surgery eight years ago, I was very active on the elliptical. I worked out every day for three hours straight and on the weekends, sometimes four hours. For those many, many miles, I had my music. I listened to a lot of the early songs of the stars today. But overall, I mostly just listen to a mixture. There isn’t one song that I listen to, but some artists that I like are Whitney Houston, Madonna, Katy Perry, and Shania Twain. I like the people that are the best in their business.

If you could be any celebrity, who would you be and why?

Probably Billy Crystal because he is funny. I like to smile and laugh. We are all under a lot of pressure to be the best every day. Nobody can put more pressure on me than me, so I would like to be him. If I had to choose others, I would say Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, and Tom Hanks because whatever role that they play, you believe them. When they act, you just believe that they are real, and I think that is the best compliment you could get. 

What TV character do you think you’re most like?

I would say Frank Reagan of Blue Bloods.

If you could teach one class, what would it be?

I taught the Social Studies, so economics, government, and current world affairs. I was also certified in elementary, where I taught two years of third grade.

What is your favorite Italian dish to cook?

Eggplant Parmesan. I don’t eat it much anymore because the way I make it is not the best for me, but I like it with eggplant and sausage. And I love salad with Italian dressing.

How do you live your day-to-day life with such large fingers?

I am proud of these fingers and hands. It is me. I wear size eighteen shoes. My father wore a ten-and-a-half.  In elementary school, I shared shoes with him.  The bottom line is my feet and hands are still my own. There are some things I can’t do because of the size of my hands. When I type, my hands go over two keys. And I wear a size 20 ring. But I am proud of it because it is me. It is a trademark, and I like that.