Gullo Takes Over At Dunkirk
‘92 Fredonia Graduate Formerly Ran NCCS Athletics
DUNKIRK — The Dunkirk Marauders are ushering in a new era on the court this coming year, with new coaches at the helm. The same night that Ken Ricker was approved as the new girls basketball coach, the new face of the boys program was announced — and his name is Luke Gullo.
“I always wanted to be a high school varsity basketball coach,” Gullo said. “I’m so excited to show my passion for the game.”
A Fredonia graduate in the Class of ’92, Gullo has a long list of achievements in his coaching career. He has coached youth sports for 14 years, basketball for nine years, as well as leading the athletic department at Northern Chautauqua Catholic School for six years. Gullo also started a travel basketball program in the area that focuses on summer leagues and tournaments, while allowing athletes to play other sports, as well.
“Luke firmly believes that basketball and sports in general can be a great tool to reach kids in ways that mean more than wins and losses,” Athletic Director Mike Sarratori said. “DHS was very fortunate.”
Gullo’s family ties make for an exciting twist to the Dunkirk-Fredonia rivalry. Gullo’s older brother, Vince, is the heralded varsity baseball coach at Fredonia High School. In addition, Luke’s daughter, Hannah, just graduated from Fredonia after an athletic career in multiple sports, including basketball, softball and cross country.
“It’s exciting,” Luke Gullo said. “Vince is an amazing coach. Growing up in the same house, I got to know how competitive he is. We’re similar in how competitive we are.”
Gullo made sure to note that although many kids grow up as friends and as teammates, often playing in offseason travel leagues together, the Dunkirk-Fredonia rivalry is still the same when it matters most.
“The rivalry is still intact,” Gullo said.
Though his family ties and high school career lead back to Fredonia, Gullo made it clear that he is not a “Fredonia guy.”
“I always thought I would land in Dunkirk,” Gullo said. “I’ve never considered myself as a Fredonia guy or a Dunkirk guy. I always considered myself a Catholic school guy. … I went to Fredonia, but I lived in Dunkirk for seven years and I’ve coached in the community for many years.”
Sarratori had multiple options for both the boys and girls basketball head coaching positions, but settled on Gullo and Ricker to take the reins, despite no prior relationship with Gullo.
“I had no relationship with Mr. Sarratori before I applied,” said Gullo, who said he provided a list of references when he applied.
Sarratori believes he made the right choice.
“I was very fortunate to have multiple applicants for our girls and boys basketball positions,” Sarratori said. “What Luke has, as well as Ken, is a passion for kids — to always keep kids as their priority and do whatever is best for the kids and the program.”
The similarities do not end there, according to Sarratori.
“Sometimes tough decisions need to be made to enhance the program or teach a life lesson,” Sarratori said. “Both Luke and Ken expressed that belief right from the start. … Luke and Ken realize the ‘gold mine’ of potential and special young adults DHS has. They are excited to start and develop programs that will make the city proud, and in the end, bring Dunkirk a championship in basketball.”
While Ricker takes over a team that likely returns all five starters from the previous year, Gullo’s experience will be much different. The Marauders graduated nine seniors this past year, including all five starters. However, that situation is not much different from what Gullo endured as a player.
“When I played in high school, we came in with a clean slate as well,” Gullo said. “We didn’t have much in terms of expectations, but we surprised people. I think we’ll be able to surprise people like that in Dunkirk next year.
“There is a ton of talent coming up. I’m so excited to get started and start recruiting athletes from other sports to come play,” Gullo added. “It’s going to be a lot of fun to be a part of the program. I hope the kids get as excited about it as I am.”
Joining Gullo at Dunkirk is another name that will be familiar to the Fredonia audience, Joe Pucciarelli, who will be the assistant coach. Pucciarelli has coaching experience in multiple sports, most recently as the Fredonia varsity softball coach before Jesse Beers took over the program.
“I’m very blessed to have Joe Pucciarelli joining me as my assistant coach,” Gullo said. “He has so much experience coaching different sports, and he’s also one of my very best friends. We’re so excited for the opportunity.”
Gullo and Pucciarelli will have their work cut out for them, taking over a young, inexperienced team. Still, Gullo believes that in the big picture, Dunkirk is here to stay.
“Our goal is to make Dunkirk relevant for a long time,” he said. “We’re here to help sustain success for the long haul, on and off the court.”