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Dick Bihr, the dean of men's college basketball coaches in Western New York, is leaving the Buffalo State bench.

But don't call it a retirement.

"I'm just taking a little break, that's all," said Bihr, who will begin a six-month sabbatical on Oct. 14. He will resume his coaching duties in early March.

Though the announcement Tuesday came as a surprise for some in Buffalo State's athletic department, Bihr said he has been contemplating this for the last couple of years.

The Cheektowaga native and Williamsville resident plans to use the time off to travel and spend time with his family. He also will use the time for professional development by attending games at other schools and interacting with former players who are now coaching.

"I thought this is the right time to take a step back from everything," said Bihr, who has a 384-156 career record in 20 years at Buffalo State. "This will be the first time since 1970 that I will not be in a gym for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I think the time away will do me and the program some good."

Assistant coach Fred Batchelor, who is entering his second season with the Bengals, will be the interim head coach.

"I feel very comfortable leaving our program in Fred's hands," Bihr said. "He's a good man."

Batchelor spent two seasons on Tim Cohane's University at Buffalo staff before returning to Buffalo State, where he worked as an assistant in charge of recruiting and scouting from 1994 through 1996.

Batchelor began his career at Villa Maria College from 1992-94. He served as the school's athletic director in his second year.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity to fill in for Coach Bihr," Batchelor said. "I'll be able to maintain the continuity with the program and the players I've recruited over the years. "I'm excited about the upcoming season."

While Bihr will attend a lot of games locally during his time off, he has no plans to watch his Bengals.

"I want to be fair to Fred," Bihr said. "If he wants my advice on anything, I'll be there for him. But I'm going to try and stay away because I wouldn't want him to feel someone looking over his shoulder."

Under Bihr, the Bengals have won 10 State University of New York Athletic Conference titles and advanced to the NCAA Division III tournament 11 times. Eight of his 10 20-win seasons have occurred in the last 10 years.

"Dick is the most successful basketball coach in the history of Buffalo State College, and I think it's great after 20 years that he can take the time for professional development," athletic director Jerry Boyes said. "It's a unique opportunity for him to get to see new things and also reinforce what he's doing here."

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Teams that played in the NCAA tournament last season highlight St. Bonaventure's 1999-2000 schedule. Bona meets tournament participant LSU in the opening round of the St. Mary's Tournament (Nov. 26-27) and could meet St. Mary's, another NCAA tourney team, in the final. The 12-game home slate includes Niagara (Dec. 1) and NCAA tournament entries Xavier (Feb. 4) and St. Joseph's (Jan. 13).

The Bonnies play Indiana of the Big Ten in the first round of the Indiana Tournament on Dec. 18 and visit ACC power Maryland on Jan. 27. They open the season at Canisius as part of the second-annual Western New York doubleheader.

MEN'S SOCCER: Bonaventure senior Tom Lemmon was named Atlantic 10 player of the week after scoring 15 points (seven goals and one assist) in three games last week. . . .Matt Raponi scored in Buffalo State's 3-1 loss to Nazareth.

WOMEN'S SOCCER: Buffalo State goaltender Laura Williams (Hamburg) made 10 saves in a 5-0 loss to Rochester Institute of Technology. . . .Carrie Kutis (LaSalle) had two goals and Barbi Garlow (Wilson) added two assists as Niagara County Community College (2-0) beat Jamestown CC, 4-2.

WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Sophomore Andrea Belis (Kenmore West) had 15 kills and senior setter Kristi Amyotte (Lockport) added 12 assists as Medaille beat Buffalo State (11-15, 15-7, 15-11, 17-15) for the first time in any sport. Tami Sartori (Sweet Home) had 14 kills for State.

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