Franklin Regional football program, WCCA mourn loss of Larry Sellitto

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Thursday, January 7, 2021 | 4:00 PM


Every head football coach has a right-hand man.

For longtime Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta, it was Larry Sellitto.

“He was my best friend,” Botta said. “He was there during good times and bad. One of the most supportive people I have ever met. He was loved by so many people. I will miss him like a brother.”

Sellitto, the assistant head coach and special teams coordinator at Franklin Regional and president of the Westmoreland County Coaches Association, died unexpectedly at his home on Christmas Day. He was 65.

The news did more than disrupt a holiday for family and friends. It shocked them. Shook them.

“Larry loved football,” said Botta, who coached with Sellitto for 19 years. “He always rearranged his work schedule to be there. He told me on the field was where he let the world’s problems escape.”

Sellitto helped Botta with preparations for games and practices, often going above his duties by helping with bus schedules, video equipment, eligibility lists, letterwinners, stats and more.

“He loved his special teams,” Botta said. “That was his baby. He took pride in it.”

Sellitto ran the WCCA since 2013, helping to turn a sinking organization into a thriving staple in the county sports universe. He helped the association’s wrestling tournament grow into a premier event and nurtured successful events in track and field, swimming, cross country, golf and basketball.

A football underclassmen showcase was one of his most cherished events.

“I am devastated,” WCCA member and Derry girls basketball coach Gene Brisbane said. “Larry had a total commitment to the student-athletes and coaches of Westmoreland County. He was passionate about our organization, and he took us to another level. He was responsible for increasing the number of scholarships given, the number of events that we sponsor and the total memberships of the WCCA. He made sure we did things the right way and handled everything with a lot of class.”

Brisbane said Andy Wnek, the WCCA vice president, will replace Sellitto as president.

Former players recognized Sellitto’s pivotal role at Franklin Regional, a perennial WPIAL contender known for its toughness and bravado, traits of a coaching staff that also emphasized respect for opponents.

“Coach Sellitto was a great coach who always cared about every athlete in Westmoreland County,” said former Panthers lineman Eric Festa. “He showed up every day with a smile on his face and made sure we were all taken care of. The happiness he brought to the field was infectious, and overall, he was a just a great man.”

Festa recalls the atmosphere Sellitto helped to create when the Foothills Classic returned in 2017 after a nine-year hiatus.

Festa, who now plays at Slippery Rock, was selected for the local all-star game.

“I can’t imagine the hours he put in to get that game back up and running,” Festa said. “We had everything from custom jerseys to meals being provided after the practices. There aren’t many coaches as passionate as he was.”

Another former Franklin Regional standout, Nate Leopold, said Sellitto was known for giving motivational speeches before games.

The way he sees it, Sellitto put the special in special teams.

“My senior year before the Armstrong game, we were doing our (special teams) meeting. He said, ‘We were in the driver’s seat, but now we’re in the console.’ We were all like, what? We had no idea what that meant. But we loved it. We went crazy. We ended up winning that game in overtime, and I just remember everyone saying to him after the game, ‘Coach, we’re in the console.’ It became one of our slogans all year.”

Sellitto, a Jeannette grad who also coached football at Penn-Trafford and Geibel, was a licensed psychologist who had a private practice in Monroeville.

“He did everything he could for FR and its players,” Leopold said. “Very few people in the world are meant to coach special teams, but he was one of them.”

Leopold, now a member of the football team at John Carroll in Ohio, returned a punt for a touchdown last season. He sent the highlight clip to Sellitto, who beamed when he pressed play.

“He said it meant everything to him that I finally got (a return TD),” Leopold said. “That was the kind of relationship we had. I wanted to succeed for him on special teams because of the trust he always gave me, and he just wanted me to succeed. And he was like that with everybody.”

Andrew Brncic said Sellitto gave him a chance to prove his worth on the field.

“He believed in his players and always found a way to bring out the best in each of us,” Brncic said. “He coached myself and both of my brothers for years, and we will all tell you the same thing.”

Brncic said a conversation with Sellitto about his impact on special teams when he was a senior changed Brncic’s outlook on the game.

“He put his trust in me and made me his guy on special teams,” he said. “I became my team’s special teams player of the year. I attribute a lot of the success I had from that conversation I had with him and having the right coach to care about me and my abilities. That is something I carried with me all through my football career in high school football and my four years of college football (at Waynesburg).

“He is one guy that I knew always had my back and cared about me during high school football.”

The WCCA and Franklin Regional staff simply won’t be the same without Sellitto.

“He always put others ahead of himself,” Botta said. “If I needed something, it was always done. He could not do enough for me and others.”

Sellitto took care of his late mother, Colomba “Bina” Sellitto, who died a month ago, until the pandemic ultimately separated them.

The loss of both of them in just over a month’s time — she died in November at age 97 — makes their story that much more heartbreaking.

“He was always there for her but could not be in the same room since March,” Botta said. “Sad.”

Sellitto coached at Franklin Regional over two stints — 1997-2004 and 2011-2020.

“My one regret, and his too,” Botta said, “was that he left in 2004 right before we won state. It ate at him. I wish he would have (had more) time to smell the roses.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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