Bob Palko was warned when he took the job 19 years ago that he would never win at his alma mater, West Allegheny.
Seven WPIAL Class AAA championships later, Palko has not only proven people wrong but made history in the process.
West Allegheny hasn’t just won WPIAL titles, it’s done so by an average margin of 18.1 points.
“That’s the thing: They get there and they win,” said Hopewell coach Dave Vestal, whose Vikings lost to West Allegheny in the 2001 and ’09 finals. “How many times have they got there and lost?”
Actually, West Allegheny is 7-0 under Palko in WPIAL finals.
A victory over Central Valley Friday would make Palko the first coach in league history to win eight WPIAL titles.
What’s his secret to success?
“I don’t know,” Palko said. “Lucky, I guess.”
More like perfectly prepared.
Both Vestal and West Mifflin coach Ray Braszo, whose Titans lost to West Allegheny in the 2000 and ’12 finals, noted how sound the Indians play in every phase.
Palko coaches his team to prepare for and play like there’s no tomorrow. It’s why West Allegheny often overwhelms opponents.
“It only takes a play to change a game, a moment to make a difference,” Palko said. “They’re so worried about letting the guy next to them down that it becomes a powerful tool.”
West Allegheny plays with a confidence that comes from its coach, who turned a deaf ear to the naysayers and turned his program into a perennial power.
“He does an unbelievable job,” Vestal said. “He’s an outstanding coach, has the kids believing.”
Regardless of whether it wins an eighth WPIAL title, Palko has proven perfect for West A.