Coaching a championship-caliber program is not easy. It takes a lot of time and personal sacrifice – often at the expense of family.
The desire to spend more time with loved ones is the reason Gene Tundo has stepped down as Orchard Park football coach.
Tundo confirmed the development to the Buffalo News on Thursday.
Under Tundo's longtime guidance, Orchard Park became one of the signature programs in Western New York, capturing New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships in Class AA in 2008 and 2011. The Quakers also finished as state runner-up in 2012.
"The reason I stepped down from lacrosse (two years ago) were both my parents passed away and my granddaughter passed away," said Tundo, who still coached the 2016 football season with a heavy heart and guided the Quakers to the sectional final where they lost to Lancaster.
Tundo has three adult children and five grandchildren (ages 4 months to 13 years old).
"Preparing for the football season nowadays is almost a 10-12 month position," Tundo said. "I do want spend more time with the family. If you go (to work) at 7 o'clock and get home at 7 o'clock 10 months out of the year, it doesn't leave a whole lot of time for anything else. … I don't have a plan for the future, but my plan is definitely to spend some more time with my family. There are probably things I have to figure out still."
In addition to football, Tundo coaches girls indoor and outdoor track – which isn't as time consuming to coach as football. He plans to continue in his role as a physical education teacher with the district.
Tundo was the longtime boys lacrosse coach at the school, leading the program to 24 Section VI titles and 541 wins in 35 seasons before stepping down prior to the 2016 season.
In football, he guided one of the most successful programs in Western New York. The Quakers won 12 sectional titles and reached the final 17 times during his 24 seasons.
Tundo credits his apprenticeship under former OP coaches Tony Politare, Bruce Fraser and Dan Elvin for preparing him to run a football program.
Including his long tenure as wrestling coach, Tundo compiled more than 100 victories as pilot in three sports at OP.
OP finished 4-5 on the football field in 2017. That's the only time in football, lacrosse or wrestling that a team Tundo coached finished with more losses than wins in a season.
"Gene's been great to work with," OP Athletic Director Dave Hack said. "He's got an outstanding mind for student-athletes. He cares about the kids. His teams have consistently been our biggest teams in terms of (participants). I think that's reflective of his coaching philosophy."
North Tonawanda coach Eric Jantzi, who had separate stints as an assistant on the Orchard Park staff – including the 2011 state-title team, said Tundo was a good role model for the kids.
"The kids wanted to play hard for him," Jantzi said. "I just have a lot of respect for him. I enjoyed working with him. I wish him all the best for him and his family."
"The secret is making it fun for the kids," Tundo said. "It's a kids' game. It's not the fans', it's not the parents' game. It's let the kids play, keep them safe, work them hard. Let them play."
Did the recent personal losses in Tundo's life (parents and grandchild) impact his perspective on coaching football, which is set to begin 7-on-7 passing league play this month?
"You think about those things as you go along and the older you get the more they weigh on you," Tundo said. "Those things that happened, they make you sad to think back I could've spent more time with the people you love. Sometimes it's too late to do that. It made me think about doing those things."
Tundo said the job opening has been posted and that assistants Craig Dana and Chuck Senn currently handling the day-to-day duties of the program.
"Craig Dana and Chuck Senn, they're just doing an amazing job," Tundo said. "It's just time for one of those guys to take over. They're good people and they do a good job. They've been unbelievably supportive of me."
Hack said the vacancy will be posted for 10 days. After the deadline, a candidate will be recommended as a successor to the OP school board.
Hack will miss Tundo on the sidelines.
"He's been an outstanding coach at Orchard Park," Hack said.