Western New York basketball lost one of its finest men earlier this week in long-time Traditional boys basketball coach Joe Cardinal, who passed away after a six-month battle with cancer. Cardinal coached some of the best teams and players this area has ever produced. Unfortunately, he was scrutinized more for his limited skills as a strategist.
Cardinal wasn't the best at X's and O's, but he was great communicator. He did a great job of motivating his players to perform to the best of their ability. More important, his players loved him. Guys like Jason Rowe and Damien Foster saw him as a father figure. Cardinal was always there for his players, even when their careers were long over.
I was so happy for him when Traditional won a state championship in 1996. It was vindication for a man who did the best he could with what he had.
How will I remember Cardinal? It won't be for all the games he won or the players he coached. I'll remember him for the friendship he gave to me when I arrived in Buffalo almost 16 years ago. I'll remember all the lives he touched and influenced. More important, I'll remember him for giving so much of himself to others during his 62 years on this earth.
He was in a lot of pain at the end, so I'm glad he's in a better place.
God bless you, Joe Cardinal. Rest in peace. And thanks for the memories.