Ohio Valley roots still run deep for Gaudio

WHEELING — No one can ever accuse Dino Gaudio of forgetting his roots.

The Yorkville native and Buckeye South graduate actually reflects on growing up and utilizes something that he learned in the Ohio Valley in some regard daily.

And, obviously, it’s paid dividends in a myriad of ways for the former Wake Forest head men’s basketball coach and current ESPN college basketball analyst.

Gaudio had a chance to return to the Ohio Valley and recall some of the things that formed the highly successful and charismatic man that he is today as part of the Cancer Research Classic’s tip-off dinner held at Oglebay Park’s Glessner Auditorium inside Wilson Lodge Thursday evening.

It didn’t take Gaudio long at all to accept Dr. Gregory Merrick’s invitation to serve as the keynote speaker for the second annual dinner, which begins a weekend full of basketball.

The sixth annual Cancer Research Classic formally gets under way this afternoon with a quartet of games slated for Wheeling Jesuit University’s Alma Grace McDonough Center, starting at 4:30.

However, the weekend is much more than hoops and Gaudio made sure he got that point across.

Merrick has found a bevy of ways to utilize his love of basketball as a vehicle to promote men’s health and the value of a Catholic education.

Those factors made Gaudio an even better choice for this year’s banquet.

“I think this whole event is marvelous,” Gaudio said. “The way Dr. Merrick has grown this and the way the whole thing is run is just tremendous. I remember this when it was in its infantile stages, so to see where it’s at now is great. On top of the basketball, the way this event supports events that are more important (than basketball) such as cancer research, early detection.”

Overall, though, for Gaudio, it was a chance to come ‘home.’

“I got in earlier (Thursday) and my parents picked me up at the airport, so the more time I can spend with them and a lot of people from Yorkville came this evening in support,” Gaudio said.

The Yorkville native, who now lives in Charlotte, took time to reflect on his years in Eastern Ohio and his first-ever coaching job at Wheeling Central under the late Skip Prosser.

He also encouraged men in the audience to get tested for health issues early. He’s got credibility in the area since he’ll be a 10-year cancer survivor come April.

“Catholic education meant a tremendous amount to me along with the early detection of cancer,” Gaudio said. “I am only here today because of early detection. It means a lot to me to come back for a great cause and see people who mean a lot to me and mentored me.”

Gaudio took plenty of what he learned as a kid growing up in Yorkville and attending Buckeye South High School with him into his coaching career.

As for many people, it was just the little things, too.

“(Yorkville) was a tremendously caring environment and a place where you just weren’t raised by your mom and dad,” Gaudio smiled. “You were raised by 200 or so other people in that town, who, if they saw you doing something wrong they let you know about it. I learned a lot about value and work ethic.”

It’s those values that Gaudio used to form not only his coaching philosophy, but also the way he went about raising his own daughters and building his own family.

“From my dad, I learned about a work ethic and from my mother, who is a cancer survivor now, I learned about dealing with adversity,” Gaudio said. “Where you grow up is what molds you to who you really are and you absolutely carry that with you throughout your personal and professional careers.”

Gaudio boarded a flight today back to Charlotte because of an ESPN commitment, so he won’t be able to take in any of the games, but he’s well aware of the talent and encouraged any basketball – or sports fan in general – to get out this weekend for the action.

“You’ll see these players in the NBA in maybe two or three years,” Gaudio said. “I’d say four or five of these kids coming this weekend will play in the NBA. There are a lot of very good individual players, but there are also some very good coaches. People would be making a huge mistake if they didn’t come out, see these players and support the issues of men’s health.”

Along with seeing family and plenty of old friends, Gaudio was also presented a framed #23 Buckeye South Rebels jersey that he wore during his prep days by current Buckeye Local High School Basketball Coach Jay Morris.

“I wore 23 before Michael Jordan,” Gaudio said.

Staskey can be reached at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com