It takes Ralph Galanti a while to get through lunch. There always seem to be friends shuffling around or acquaintances stopping by to offer hellos.
Relationships are important to Galanti. It's one of the reasons why he's stayed at the junior college level all these years -- more chances to meet people, more chances to help people.
It's also a big part of the reason Galanti will join 10 other honorees in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2004 induction dinner at HSBC Arena on Wednesday night.
As athletics director and hockey coach at Erie Community College, the Lackawanna native has been a fierce advocate for the athletics department at the college and a staunch supporter of junior college athletics in general.
"I think a lot of people are not informed about community college," Galanti said. "It's a great starting point for student-athletes, and for any student. It's good for students who are not academically proficient and for those who just want to start out at a smaller school. Ask Steve Tasker (what he thinks of junior college).
"I had the opportunity several times to go to a Division I school, but I just love where I am. You get to meet so many more student-athletes and you can impact so many more people here."
Under his watch, ECC athletics have blossomed. When he took the job in the 1970s, ECC fielded teams in only seven sports and each of the three ECC campuses sponsored separate teams. Galanti consolidated the program, which now offers 20 sports and has 42 team titles to its credit in men's and women's bowling, men's swimming and diving, men's outdoor track and field, and women's fastpitch softball.
For the coaches and athletes, it's not just the success that makes the ECC program special, but the way in which Galanti runs it.
"I can't say enough about Ralph," said ECC football coach Dennis Greene, who was first hired by Galanti as a junior varsity basketball coach and who also used to drive the bus for Galanti's hockey teams. "Some athletic directors will hire you and tell you, 'This is what you're doing.' Ralph's not like that. He's the kind of boss that hires you and says, 'Do your job.' If you need anything or have any problems, he's there to help but his attitude is that he hired you to do a job. It's your team. He lets you run your program and I think that's the best kind of guy to work for."
Also being inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame are:
Mike Foligno, the Buffalo Sabres' captain during the 1980s, who scored 257 goals with 511 assists, 61 power-play goals and 43 game-winning goals for Buffalo; Andre Reed, the Buffalo Bills wide receiver who earned seven Pro Bowl appearances; Dave Hollins, former Orchard Park High star, who played most of his 12-year major league baseball career with the Philadelphia Phillies, batting .260 lifetime with 578 runs scored and 482 RBIs; the late Jim Hurtubise, of North Tonawanda, who set an Indy 500 single-lap speed record of 149.601 mph in 1960 in his qualifying run. He went on to finish 18th in the race with his best finish of 13th coming in 1962;
Bob Ivory, a coach at St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute whose cross country teams had a 34 dual meet winning streak from 1969-75 while his track and field teams set a Western New York record with 56 straight meet wins from 1966-72; Bill Bergey, an alumnus of Pine Valley Central, who was a Small College All-America football player at Arkansas State and played linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles, reaching four Pro Bowls;
Bob Miske, a standout basketball and baseball player at the University at Buffalo who was a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees along with being a collegiate basketball referee for 35 years; Kevin Milligan, a standout athlete at St. Mary's School for the Deaf who led the U.S. to gold medals in basketball at the 1961 Deaf Olympics and the 1965 Pan-American Games; The Stumpf Family, who opened the first private gymnastics training center in Buffalo in the 1970s; and the late Joe Overfield, the Buffalo Bisons historian and a founding member of the Society for Baseball Research.