For the first time since 1955, someone not named Palano will be sitting in the athletic director's chair at Bishop Timon-St. Jude.
Charlie Comerford, one of the school's all-time greats and already the school's football coach, has been named the new AD, succeeding the retiring Jim Palano, who had held the post since 1991. Palano's legendary father, Mel, was AD from 1955 to 1991.
"I'm ecstatic about it," said Jim Palano. "A young guy, with great energy and great passion for the school."
Comerford was named football coach last spring and led the Tigers to an 8-3 turnaround season; he has been admissions coordinator since October.
"Mr. Palano has always been a mentor of mine as a coach, a teacher, and this year he became a great friend to me," said Comerford, who was a two-time first-team All-Western New York selection in both football and basketball. "To take his place and carry on the tradition at Timon is an honor."
Comerford, 29, said his main goal is boosting the school's enrollment.
"The biggest thing is getting kids in the school," he said. "To be competitive in every sport, we need to get more bodies in the school. We need to get more kids exposed to what Timon has to offer -- that's our challenge, and I'm looking forward to it."
Comerford said that when he took the job, "honestly, I thought Mr. Palano would be there forever. The AD job was really never on my radar until early in the year when he talked about it, and I said it was something I'd love to do. I love being in the school every day. We have great kids, I think we have the best kids in the world. I really enjoy it; I can't imagine a better place to spend the rest of my career."
Palano, 61, is in his 40th year with the South Buffalo school. This 39th season as baseball coach is the last in his accomplished career, which also included basketball coach starting in 1988-89.
"It's starting to [sink in]," Palano said. "It's coming to an end. I'm in no hurry to get there. I'm trying not to dwell on it. I'm a pretty active guy. I'll have to keep it that way. My kids are out of town and my father's down [in Sarasota, Fla.], so it's time to turn the page. It's going to be tough come August when the sports start up again. But it won't be that difficult in January in Florida; then maybe I'll feel a little better."
Comerford is also an assistant with the basketball team, where another Timon grad, Joe Mihalics, will succeed Palano. A baseball successor has yet to be named.
> Post-banquet report
Monday's inaugural Prep Talk/BCANY Awards banquet for boys basketball was a success, thanks to a superior team effort.
Williamsville South coach Al Monaco and the Basketball Coaches Association of New York, of which he is the assistant executive director, were invaluable to the entire process. The BCANY supported the event with The Buffalo News.
Dick Gallagher, whose 25-year football banquet was the inspiration for a boys basketball event, guided Monaco and me through every stage, from our first meeting last fall to literally helping set things up Monday afternoon. Without Gallagher, this effort may have looked like two guys trying to run a three-man weave.
ADPRO Sports was a terrific partner, donating top-of-the-line gear to award winners. Lake Shore coach Dan Gerken put together a tremendous souvenir program. Dennis DiPaolo and Ilio DiPaolo's Banquet Facility continued their tradition of hosting excellent high school sports events.
To answer a question I've been getting: What about the girls?
The quick answer is: We're taking it one banquet at a time.
Monday's event was a large (200-plus attendees), unprecedented undertaking, and we wanted to focus on Western New York's premier high school sport (along with football) for this first effort.
Also, while the BCANY is open to girls coaches and serves all of basketball (Sister Maria Pares of Sacred Heart was inducted into its New York State Basketball Hall of Fame this year), the Western New York chapter is made up mostly of boys coaches. There is simply not the necessary infrastructure on the girls' side to put together what we did Monday night.
We are hopeful that will change, and The News would certainly be interested in partnering for an event for girls basketball at some point. For details on BCANY membership, contact Monaco at email@example.com.
Check out a video wrap-up of Monday's banquet, including the presentation of the first Allen Wilson Player of the Year Award to Stan Wier of East Aurora, at buffalonews.com.