New Harding coach from Point Park
By Steve Ruman
It wasn’t that Gabe Bubon was in any way looking to leave his position as head basketball coach at Point Park University in Pittsburgh.
It’s just that Bubon couldn’t pass up what might have been the only opportunity to return to his alma mater and hometown to accept what he described as his “dream job.”
On Tuesday, the Warren Board of Education approved the recommendation to hire Bubon as the Raiders’ varsity basketball coach. He will also assume the role as a school community liaison for the Warren City Schools.
Bubon replaces Andy Vlajkovich, who stepped down last month following a six-year stint to take the same position at Canton McKinley.
“I’ve been at Point Park for a long time, and I love it there, I never really envisioned myself leaving,” Bubon said. “It just came down to things falling in place in Warren, and me knowing that I might not have another chance at it. Warren really is the only high school that could have pulled me away from Point Park.”
Bubon is a 1995 Warren G. Harding graduate. He went on to play at Point Park, where he graduated in 2000. While there, he set the school’s single-game scoring record with 45 points against Shawnee State in February of 2000. He has been a part of the Pioneers coaching staff since 2003, including the last two years as the head coach.
“I’ve already talked to some of the (Harding) assistants, and they have given me a good rundown of what we have coming back,” Bubon said. “I’ll meet with the team on Monday, and spend the summer getting to know them, and letting them get to know me.”
Bubon said that the support he has received this week reaffirms his belief that he made the right decision to return to Warren.
“The response I’ve received has been overwhelming, I’ve never felt more welcomed in my life,” Bubon said. “Warren has always been home to me, but that really came to light these past few days with all of the positive feedback I’ve received from the community.”
When asked to name his coaching mentors, Bubon was quick to rattle off his high school coaches which included Bob LaRicca, Frank Bubba and Mark Flemming.
“Those guys, they were great teachers of the game and great human beings,” Bubon said. “They had a major impact on me, not just in terms of basketball but from an educational standpoint. I could only hope to have that same impact on today’s players.”
“My coaches were great role models, they cared more about me as a person than a basketball player.”
Bubon also hopes to bring some of the 1990s Runnin’ Raiders flair back to the program.
“I am not conditioned to get enjoyment out of a 44-40 type game, that drives me crazy” Bubon said. “I want to run, I want to score, and I want to get in your face on defense.”
“Our guys will quickly learn that they have to be in shape to play our style of basketball. But Warren has always produced great athletes who are willing to put in the extra work. That’s not going to be an issue.”
Warren Athletic Director Bill Nicholson said Bubon was a clear-cut favorite among the more than 20 applicants.
“There are a lot of elements to this job,” Nicholson said. “Most of those interviewed, they understood the X’s and O’s of the game. I’m not sure all of them understood exactly what all was expected beyond basketball. This position is part coach, part counselor, part parent-figure, part preacher.”
“Gabe knows Warren. He knows the families, he knows the make-up of this town. That is a powerful tool.”
Ironically, Bubon’s brother – and perhaps biggest rival – Dan also teaches at Harding and is the basketball coach at Howland. The two schools annually meet on the hardwood.
“Oh, we are very competitive,” Gabe said. “In the backyard, video games, now on the golf course. We love going at it. I think that rivalry just got a lot more fun for us and for the schools.”
This past season, the Raiders went 18-7, advancing to the Division I Solon District semifinal.