Bob Palko became Mt. Lebanon High School’s head football coach in February. Prior to that, he racked up 37 seasons of coaching, including 24 most recently at West Allegheny, winning a state championship in 2001. At the end of the 2018 football season, Palko decided to retire from coaching at age 59. As you can see, his retirement did not last very long.
Why did you “un-retire” to take the head coaching job at Mt. Lebanon?
First of all, I probably retired too early. Secondly, I’ve known John Grogan [Mt. Lebanon High School Athletics Director] for 25 years. I’m happy to be here, and the rest is history.
What’s your most treasured coaching accomplishment?
Relationships. I still have great relationships with former players, and those are the things that mean the most to me. To be invited to a wedding or to watch them become parents, those are the things that I cherish the most.
What current player in the National Football League do you admire the most and why?
Larry Fitzgerald [Arizona Cardinals and former University of Pittsburgh wide receiver]. My son, Tyler, and he are such good friends. He’s a man’s man. The way he conducts his life. We keep in touch.
What’s the biggest challenge of coaching kids in 2019, compared to say, 20 years ago?
I think they are exposed to things compared to those in the past. The pressures on kids these days are different. There is not a scholarship for everyone. The ante is up for academics in this school district. These kids are challenged academically. However, I have never met a kid that does not want to be coached or want discipline. The key is to be able to break down the barriers with kids. It takes a little bit of work.
How do you plan to get Mt. Lebanon players involved in local public service and volunteering initiatives?
We have such a good opportunity to be involved in this community, giving back and being able to take care of people not as fortunate as they are. We can teach strong life lessons and try to take care of situations. I’ve always said that special needs kids are near and dear to my heart. We’ll have to see how the school year develops to see how we will get involved.