Union's Antuono retiring early from teaching for new basketball endeavor

May 6—Steve Antuono for years watched his oldest brother, Frank, teach until 3 p.m., then turn to the football field until late evening.

Lessons in coaching helped Antuono bring the Union and Ellwood City school districts their first WPIAL basketball championships.

"I was a kid seeing that, and I thought in order to coach, you need to (teach), so that was that," he said.

Antuono, 50, is retiring as Union Area School District's art teacher after 28 years in the district. In addition to art, he has taught elementary math in small groups, middle school language arts and sixth-grade science and social studies.

Antuono accepted a full-time position at Reign 3D, a student-athlete training facility, as the director of athlete development and facility manager. He starts in the role at the facility along Darlington Road in Beaver Falls on June 3.

Reign 3D is mostly for basketball training but offers strength, jump and speed training for all sports.

"They've given me a platform to do what I'm very passionate about, which is teaching basketball," he said.

Basketball is a skill game, Antuono said, and he loves the challenge of adding layers and consistency to a student's skills until they become a fully developed athlete.

Antuono has worked at the facility part-time for a little over two years since he finished coaching school teams. The vision Reign 3D owners Jamie Reynolds and Jodie Fusetti presented enticed him to retire early from teaching, he said.

"We're excited about the fresh level of intensity, energy and coaching experience he will bring," Reynolds said.

By contract, Union teachers are required to submit retirement paperwork by April 15. By the time he received the full-time offer, he had about two weeks to make a decision. His goal was to teach for five more years before retiring, but as Reign 3D grew, Antuono said he needed to be there much more in the last two months.

Antuono has always liked art and received his undergraduate degree in art and elementary education from Thiel College, but since most school districts hire only one art teacher per building, he knew an elementary education degree would be more marketable.

When teaching high school art, he tries to give students more freedom than younger grades so they feel more motivated and pride to see more variety in their art. There is also less instructing and more talking in art, he said, which helps him get to know students on a deeper level.

On the basketball side, Antuono established his love of coaching while student-teaching in Farrell before he was hired at Union in 1996 to teach sixth grade, where he stayed for most of his career.

Antuono coached junior high basketball before Union varsity coach Mark Stanley recruited him to become an assistant for the 2003 season.

"I learned a lot through Mark, then we ended up winning the school's first WPIAL championship here," said Antuono, a .

Union, which entered the WPIAL playoffs as a No. 12 seed, barnstormed its way to Hershey as the Class 1A state runner-up.

After winning the WPIAL title, Antuono coached junior high in Shenango before taking over the Ellwood City varsity program in 2017. There, the 11th-seeded Wolverines raced to upsets on their way to claim the WPIAL Class 3A championship. Antuono's son, Steve Jr., was a junior on that squad.

"That was a Hoosier moment for sure," Antuono said. "I mean, truly, we were the 11-seed and upset everybody. So, that was awesome."

Antuono left Ellwood City after the 2022 season after six years and took the part-time position at Reign 3D about four months later.

Between art and sports, Antuono also became the art himself by modeling with Docherty Talent Agency in Pittsburgh. He said someone at church said he might be good at it, so he gave it a try. Antuono said he used to try to hide it from students, but they always found out.

He said a large part of modeling is being available when needed, which is difficult as a teacher and coach. He still models sometimes but not often, he said.

At Reign 3D, Antuono trains some athletes he has coached before and still attends basketball games of former players. He said as a coach, he feels responsible for his players' journey as an athlete and person and enjoys watching them continue to develop.

"After 28 years, these kids might not remember one thing I taught them, but I know they remember how I treated them," Antuono said. "Union has been a great place. I think it's the best little secret in New Castle, to be honest with you."