Eugene (Big Gene) Guarilia was born and raised in Duryea, Pennsylvania. Following graduation from Duryea High School, Guarilia attended Potomac State College, in West Virginia where he, as a freshman, established a state conference scoring record by totaling 595 points in his first year. After two years at PSC, Guarilia enrolled at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The 6 ft. 5 in. forward was expected to fill the shoes of All American Joe Holup who had moved on to play professionally in Syracuse. By his second season, Guarilia led his team in both point and rebound totals. Boasting a 17 ppg. average, he also hauled in 353 rebounds over 20 games. Guarilia was ranked 6th in the NCAA in rebounding and finished as a three time All Southern Conference selection. Gene was inducted into both Potomac State and George Washington’s Halls of Fame.
Eugene played professional basketball for the Boston Celtics. He was a second-round draft pick and played on four world championship teams. He appeared in 129 games over those four seasons earning a championship ring for each season as a Celtic. Big Gene etched himself into Celtic lore during the 1961-62 NBA Championship game versus the LA Lakers, when he made a crucial stop on Elgin Baylor during regulation in game seven. He then held Baylor scoreless in overtime helping the Celtics to the win. In the words of teammate and Hall of Famer Bob Cousy, “Gene Guarilia could be termed an instant starter…he could have started on any other team in the NBA…” Guarilia’s four peat places him among the NBA’s elite including Frank Saul, John Havlicek, and Steve Kerr.
Guarilia returned home following his professional career. He was a teacher, a coach, and a very talented musician. Prior to his retirement from Pittston Area, he was a physical education teacher and the school’s basketball coach for 12 years. The school dedicated its court to Guarilia in 2015. Two shamrocks and Guarilia’s number 20 were painted onto the court in his honor.
Gene passed away in 2016. He was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame posthumously as a member of the Class of 2023.