At the end of the last basketball season, Lackawanna Trail’s administration decided to go in a different direction, and reposted the head varsity coaching positions for both the boy’s and girl’s teams.
Christian Sunseri, who held the head position for six years, decided not to reapply, opening the door for a new face to coach the Lion’s boys varsity team.
Enter Ben Domiano, a board certified optician and owner of Ben Domiano Optical in Old Forge, who was a part of the Lion’s junior high team last season.
Domiano was appointed as the boys head coach in a volunteer capacity due to the current coronavirus pandemic, with the intention of being named head coach contractually once the district receives direction for the winter sports season.
A graduate of Old Forge High School, Domiano played for veteran coach Al Semenza and has been instrumental in conditioning the youth programs in the valley.
Domiano has led many youth and travel teams in the valley, as well as in the Abington Heights district, where he now resides. He has also coached with the Backcourt Hoops company and the AAU Bulldogs, a seventh grade team.
“As a player, I couldn’t get enough of the game. I was a three sport athlete, but basketball was my passion,” said Domiano. “I trained my nephew, Dimtri Gnall from Wyoming Seminary, and that brought back the fire. That is what keeps me going, I coached five teams this year.”
Gnall, a 2019 Citizens’ Voice Wyoming Valley Conference player of the year, averaged 17.5 points per game for Wyoming Seminary, which won three championships and went 26-3.
Last season, Domiano was interested in stepping up to the next level, and contacted the board at Trail to see if there were any positions open for him to join the Lion’s coaching staff.
With the varsity staff in place, Domiano connected with the junior high staff.
“Lackawanna Trail offered me a volunteer position with the seventh and eighth grade team, and when I went to practice, the first thing I noticed was that the kids were willing to learn, to get better,” he said. “But one of the issues with the program is that there are no ‘bitty’ programs, and no opportunity to be a part of one. These kids have big hearts and want to succeed. Two years ago, they lost every game, and now, they have improved so much. They want (to be better), and want it now.”
Domiano continued, “The district allowed me in, to implement my philosophies, and I want to see these kids through from the start to finish.”
Domiano is still working with the Bulldogs, and is also doing virtual trainings, six days a week mainly through the Zoom platform.
His focus now is on the Lions though, adding, “AAU is in the high school off-season, and I will not be returning to the other youth leagues.”
“I would like to start a youth program at Trail, and incorporate the varsity players into camps and clinics as role models to the younger players,” said Domiano. “The youth players can watch how the varsity kids train, practice, and carry themselves, which in turn builds up the program. Our coaches will be involved as well, as I am hoping to join the youth and varsity teams at least once a week.”
Though he has not met many of his varsity roster, he does know the families of the kids with younger siblings that were on the junior high team.
He clarified, “We are not allowed to meet with or practice with the teams because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I have spoken with a few of the guys and know some by name. I recognize their names from last year’s stats, and look forward to meeting them all. I am excited because I know at Trail, the student athletes rise to the top of their academics and athletics.”
“My philosophy is easy...I tell the kids to play hard, play smart, and play together and with that we will succeed,” said the coach. “We will train as hard as we can, we will win and we will lose. But we will be disciplined, and gel as a team to build a respectable season, one year at a time.”
“I see this as an opportunity to do something special, and we will be building a foundation that will move Trail basketball to the top,” said Domiano. “I look forward to it.”