Niagara Falls boys basketball fans may have thought USA Today should have ranked their Wolverines higher than its season-ending No. 3, but they've got to love the newspaper's choice as Coach of the Year.
Falls coach Dan Bazzani received the honor for leading Falls to a 28-1 record and the state Federation Class AA championship. It was the first time a Western New York team won the largest class of the Federation tournament, which brings together the state's public, Catholic and independent winners with the New York City champion. Falls was ranked third or higher in six national polls and was ranked first in two.
"It's wonderful -- it adds more icing on the cake of what was a wonderful year," said Bazzani. "I'm very honored, but there are so many people to thank. It all started with my seniors, Greg Gamble, Robert Garrison and Paul Harris. They were outstanding leaders. I'm grateful to them, and I have a terrific coaching staff, and our superintendent (Carmen Granto) has been wonderfully supportive."
Bazzani's record in Niagara Falls' five seasons is 123-7. He coached at the "old" Niagara Falls High the previous six years and has also coached at the University at Buffalo and Niagara County Community College.
Bazzani, also the athletics director at Niagara Falls, has yet to decide whether he will return for a final season as coach; he said he will not decide until the fall.
USA Today's Player of the Year has a Buffalo connection as well: it's 7-foot Lawrence North (Indianapolis) junior center Greg Oden, who was born in Buffalo.