Guandolo said his older brother Alan, who won two championships as a football coach at Monaca before being selected to the Beaver County Hall of Fame, taught him a lot about the game. Guandolo also learned from Larry Bruno, who was Namath’s high school coach at Beaver Falls.
“This guy was so meticulous, he had all his practice schedules in a folder with the date and what the weather was like,” Guandolo said.
Guandolo, who eventually got his degree from St. Thomas University in Miami, got his first assistant coach job with Bob Leibowitz at Hallandale High in 1983. Four years later, Guandolo was doing it all at Pace at just 25 years old.
“I remember cooking the pregame meal, lining the field and taping players up all the way up until kickoff,” Guandolo said. “Then, I had to call offense, defense, everything.”
Guandolo said he never stuck around at one school because after awhile “things got stale” or he “wore his welcome out.” In 2000, after making his first run at the state title at Southridge, Guandolo said he decided it was time to go home and coach his son. With Mark Jr. at quarterback, the Lions won a second state title in 2005.
“To win a championship with your son as quarterback is a coach’s dream,” Guandolo said. “No matter what I do from there I’m good.”
But the hunger to win continues. In his six seasons at Cypress Bay, Guandolo has led the Lightning to at least the second round of the playoffs each season. He said he came to Weston because “it feels like a strong little community,” and is something unique in South Florida.
Guandolo’s catch phrase these days?
“Don’t swallow the poison,” Cypress Bay safety/receiver Alex Montgomery said. “It means don’t believe the hype, we haven’t done anything yet.”
Guandolo said he took the line from 10-time state championship-winning coach Corky Rogers of Jacksonville Bolles.
“We went up there to play them one year and it was in their weight room,” he said. “It read: ‘Publicity is like poison, only fatal if swallowed.”
Mark Jr., who spent the past season as the strength and conditioning coach at Bryant University in Rhode Island, will be in Orlando Saturday with his mom to cheer Cypress Bay on. He said he can’t wait for the season to end so he and his father can go their favorite spot, the palm tree off Jackson St. on Hollywood Beach.
“It’s been the perfect father-son getaway for years,” Mark Jr. said. “He’ll bring his tablet, write down plays and I’ll bring the music. We’ll talk about life. And then before you know it, it will be football season again.”