This is the first in a series of profiles on the 2016 inductees into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.
By Jack Goods
News Sports Reporter
Name: Sal Buscaglia
Born: Feb. 14, 1954
Career Overview: Buscaglia’s resume can hang with every other Western New York coach. He spent 39 years coaching women’s basketball, split between Hilbert College (1977-90), the University at Buffalo (1990-98), Manhattan College (1998-03) and finally Robert Morris University (2003-16). With a 408-133 record at Hilbert and UB, he has the most wins of any Western New York coach.
He truly had success no matter where he was. At Hilbert he won eight league titles, made the NCAA Tournament eight-straight times and won 96-straight games in conference. While at UB the Bulls won three regular-season titles and one tournament title. He led the Manhattan Jaspers to their first MAAC regular-season title. At Robert Morris he went to four NCAA tournaments despite inheriting a team that underwent 14 straight losing seasons.
Memorable Moment: Buscaglia was finally able to cut down the nets with his son and assistant coach, Charlie, when he clinched his first trip to the NCAA Division I Tournament in 2003. The Jaspers bested Siena in the MAAC Championship.
“At the end of the game, there were only a few seconds on the clock,” Buscaglia began, “I look at Charlie and he said, ‘I told you I would get you here.’”
A new era: Buscaglia was the UB head coach when the school jumped to the Division I level in 1991. There were few expectations for the elevated Bulls, who were picked to finish last in the conference. That didn’t stop Buscaglia’s squad from winning 23 games the first season.
“People thought it was going to take some time, but I’m not a very patient person,” Buscaglia said.
Youth: Buscaglia said it felt like coaching women was meant to be after being raised by his mother, Ida Buscaglia, and grandmother, Concetta Latona, who both lost their husband early.
Runs in the family: Charlie took over as the head coach of Robert Morris following his father’s retirement in the spring. Charlie was an assistant coach under Sal for five seasons at Manhattan and 13 at Robert Morris. He’s come a long way from a volunteer coach for four years to one of the bright young stars in the NEC.
Quotable: “I owe a lot to the players,” Buscaglia said. “I never put a basket in the net, or got a rebound, or tore an ACL or any of those things. The players, it starts with them.”
Post Career: It’s only been a few months since Buscaglia stepped away from the game, and he’s still trying to adjust. For years, basketball was always at the forefront, whether he was at dinner, on the road or even at Disney World. After all that time, it’s tough to not get sentimental. A few weeks ago he found himself watching film of old Hilbert games.
“The transition is not easy, to be honest,” Buscaglia said. “When people have normal jobs, they can’t wait to retire and think retirement is great. … My mind was always occupied with basketball and family. Those were the key things in my life. Now that basketball is not with me as much, it’s tough.”
The GBSHOF induction dinner is Oct. 6 at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. Tickets can be purchased at the GBSHOF web site, buffalosportshallfame.com.