The Williamsville South boys basketball position, one that has been in the news since the controversial dismissal of longtime, accomplished coach Al Monaco this summer, has been filled.
Gabe Michael, a veteran area college assistant, ran practice today at Williamsville South. Today was the first day that basketball practices were held across the state.
Michael said he was named to the position last Thursday. He met with the team Friday before starting practice today.
"Al [Monaco] is a great guy, I know that," Michael told The Buffalo News. "It's a weird situation for me, because dealing with everyone at Will South, every seems awesome.
"When you stop and think about it, it's about the kids. We had a good experience today. They needed a coach, and I enjoy coaching."
Michael said he applied for the position in October and that he was interviewed by district athletic director Jim Rusin and South's new principal, Keith Boardman.
When reached by phone and asked to comment on Michael's hiring, Rusin declined.
Michael was a member of Tom Parrotta's staff at Canisius College for the last two years. Prior to that, he spent four years at Medaille's successful men's program under coach Mike MacDonald. In 2004-05, he was the head freshman team coach at Canisius High School as the team went 19-0; he was also a varsity assistant for the Crusaders.
Michael had returned to Medaille as an assistant this year prior to taking the South job. He also teaches courses at Medaille.
"To me basketball is basketball. Coach 'Mac' was very supportive, he said it was a good opportunity at a good school with good kids. Everything that happened, happened. We'll get through this year, and we'll have kind of a target on our backs, but after this year, it will be business as usual.
"There were people that I trust that said I was kind of crazy to do it, too. Some of my friends in coaching were looking at it like, 'What are you thinking?' From my end, it's still basketball. So far everyone has been very positive with the feedback I've gotten."
Michael said he was looking forward to rounding out his staff, and to directing that staff rather than being part of one.
"I'm looking forward to sitting down and planning a practice," he said. "I've always been No. 2 or No. 3 on a staff. ... I'm looking forward to calling a timeout.
"I've always had great people around me, always just learned from everyone. I believe I'm ready. It's just going to be a fun, exciting experience."
On Aug. 24, Williamsville superintendent Scott G. Martzloff removed Monaco as South’s basketball and golf coach after 24 years. Monaco’s basketball teams went 364-211, including several league and Section VI titles. He remains a health teacher at the school.
Several families filed harassment complaints against Monaco in June on behalf of their children, but the Amherst Police said its investigation resulted in no charges or violation findings. About 70 Monaco supporters attended the Sept. 11 Williamsville school board meeting; at that meeting the board stated its support of Martzloff’s decision.