A few months ago, Joe Licata was playing basketball with Jason Rowe. There were high school kids around and Rowe kept stopping the game to show the kids something on offense, explain a tactic on defense, or help them understand a better way to react to a play on the court.
"I was like 'this guy is going to make a great coach someday,'" Licata said.
Fast-forward to last week when Licata, a former basketball and football standout at Williamsville South, was named the athletic director at Bishop Timon-St. Jude. Then varsity basketball coach Desmond Randall stepped down.
"When I got this position and Desmond stepped down, Jason was the first name I thought of," Licata said.
Rowe was a standout at Traditional High School, scoring 2,286 career points and leading his team to the 1996 Class C state title. He was the first player to hit 2,000 points and 1,000 assists in New York State history.
He went on to star at Loyola (Maryland). Rowe still owns the Greyhounds career record for steals (272) and ranks on their all-time charts for career points (1,703), rebounds (434) and assists (486).
Rowe went on to play 15 seasons professionally in Europe, winning the Italian championship with Dinamo Sassari in 2009-10 and being named Eurobasket Player of the Year and Guard of the Year in France in 2005-06. He retired after the 2014-15 season and shied away from coaching.
"The transition from playing to automatically coaching is really hard," the 39-year-old Rowe said. "Now, the patience is there."
With some distance from his playing days and a growing interest in coaching, what drew Rowe to the job at Timon specifically was Licata.
"To be honest it's Joe," Rowe said of his new athletic director. "He's young. He's fresh. He's passionate. He's a former athlete and it allows me to have some freedom. We share the same passion. We were both professional athletes and care about the kids and the future of Timon. He's going to be someone who backs you and in that way, makes your job easier."
Licata is already backing Rowe, who has no head-coaching experience but brings plenty of basketball wisdom to the sidelines.
"He's never been a head coach before, but he was a point guard," Licata said. "It was the same situation with me. I was a quarterback. You're running the show.
"I had a conversation with him the other day and told him you're going to walk into the room and people are automatically going to give you respect. You're where every single young basketball player wants to be. You played Division I. You played professional basketball. That gives you automatic validation with the kids and I think that will go a long way."
Meanwhile, Rowe is already making phone calls and knocking on doors to ask for advice as he prepares for his first season as head coach.
"My uncle coaches at West Virginia University and I've been on the phone with him," Rowe said. "I've talked with other coaches. I've got a good friend who coaches in Florida. I've talked with Ka'Ron Barnes who played at Turner-Carroll, and with Reggie Witherspoon. I've got a lot of coaching friends and old teammates and I'm going to pick their brains. Those guys have been more than willing to help me make this transition successful."
Rowe joins the Timon athletic staff after Licata was named the school's athletic director, making it quite a summer for former Western New York all-stars. Licata played both basketball and football at Williamsville South, was the Buffalo News Player of the Year for football in 2010 and went on to play Division-I football at the University at Buffalo
"It's been a fast week and a half," Licata said. "I've definitely been learning a lot of things on the fly, but I've had a great support system over here. They gave me the ability to make a hire that I wanted to make. I couldn't be happier with the backing."