2010-06-25 / Sports

Father And Son End Successful Era On Winning Note

By Elio Velez

Vinny Laino (left) talks to his son Frank. By Damion Reid. Vinny Laino (left) talks to his son Frank. By Damion Reid. Frank Laino was celebrating with his NYC All-Star football team on Tuesday night after his team completed their 15-10 comeback over Long Island at the Outback Steakhouse Empire High School Football Challenge.

NYC offensive coordinator Vinny Laino approached the senior quarterback at 40-yard line of Hofstra University’s field and asked for his wristband. Vinny Laino expressed his congratulations to his player, but it wasn’t just the normal exchange of a quarterback and his player. It was a poignant final moment for the Belle Harbor natives. The victory was a lasting moment for father and son to share in their last competitive high school football game.

Vinny Laino recently retired after 20 years of guiding a successful program at Fort Hamilton. After 15 years as an assistant coach at Thomas Jefferson, Laino moved to Fort Hamilton and created a program from the ground up.

Laino maximized a roster of only 25 to 30 players, which was certainly smaller than the big programs. It was his attention to detail and dogged persistence that paid off handsomely for the Tigers.

The 55-year old finished his career with a stellar record of 150 wins and 60 losses and guided the Tigers to back PSAL city championships in 2005 and 2006.

“I’m going out feeling great. I gave it all that I had. I’m going on to new challenges.” Laino said after the game.

“The next challenge is to find things to do. A new career. Get some new hobbies or something. My wife and I will head to the Southwest. We will see what’s cooking over there.

There are many memories Vinny Laino will take with him, but nothing could top the strong bond he formed with his son Frank. While Frank was growing up, there was only one high school he was interested in attending. That was at Fort Hamilton, where Frank watched his father coach. “My first game I was in a carriage and my mother brought me there. I always wanted to be a Tiger,” Frank Laino said.

After contributing off the bench as a sophomore, Frank Laino took over as the Tigers’ starting quarterback. They were able to balance the delicate responsibilities of their relationship at home and on the field. It helped Fort Hamilton win games.

Fort Hamilton went on to advance to PSAL city title game in 2008 before falling to Port Richmond. The Tigers continued their good fortune last fall by going 9-0 in the regular season. Their title hopes was ended with a heartbreaking last second 20-19 defeat to Curtis in the semifinals on November 29, 2009.

That game turned out to be Vinny Laino’s final game. Frank was surprised when his father announced a few months later he was retiring.

“I was a bit surprised. It’s how he really felt and that’s what he wanted to do,” Frank Laino, who will play quarterback at SUNY Maritime in the fall, said.

“That was a great experience. It had its ups and downs. It can sometimes be a weird situation. But I definitely had a better high school experience than most high school kids had.”

The lasting impact Vinny Laino will have is the generosity and respect he had within the high school football coaching community.

“I remember he was at Jefferson. I was a player at Lafayette High School. Assistant coaches usually don’t stick out, but he stuck out,” said Lincoln head coach Shawn O’ Connor, who coached along with Laino on the NYC sideline on Tuesday.

“When I took over as coach as a young kid in 2000, coach Laino was a great influence one me. I worked with him at the Big Apple [Games] over the last few years. It was a pleasure to be on the sideline coaching with him in his last game.”

Erasmus Hall coach Danny Landberg says Laino’s game plan to winning is something most coaches in the PSAL will trying to emulate in the years to come.

“I respect him as a coach. It’s his gameplan and organization which like Bill Belichick does,” said Erasmus Hall coach Danny Landberg, who compares Laino to the New England Patriots coach.

“He’s [Belichick] the most organized guy out there I know. If I can compare anyone to Bill, it’s that man [Laino] out there.”

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