Bill Shaw sat at Saturday's seeding meeting in West Seneca talking about how dangerous fellow Class AA teams like Jamestown and Kenmore West will be in the upcoming Section VI girls basketball tournament.
Later that evening Shaw's Lockport team would hand the 10th-ranked team in the state, Shenendehowa (17-1), its first loss to win the Lockport Kiwanis Tournament.
Who's dangerous now?
Big wins in February/March have been the foundation of the Lockport program, which will be chasing its 18th Section VI title. The Lady Lions open postseason play next Tuesday against the winner of Thursday's Frontier-West Seneca West game.
A loss not only would end the high school careers of the seniors on Lockport's team, it could also close Shaw's amazing coaching career.
Shaw, 55, has notified the district he's retiring from teaching in June after 32 years as a business teacher. Shaw accepts the fact he risks losing his coaching position if a teacher in the district applies.
"I've seen too many people in our district go through the motions when they're 57, 58, 59, and come into work hating what they're doing," said Shaw. "I want to go out loving it. I don't want to go out a miserable [SOB]. I still love the kids, love the coaching. If that doesn't work out in Lockport, I've won a couple games in my career, I can probably get a job somewhere."
Actually, he's won 418 games in 22 seasons with 12 Section VI titles and the 1993-1994 New York State Championship.
While Shaw's future remains uncertain, one thing is very clear: Another Section VI title is up for grabs.
The 37th annual tournament tips off today with 11 prequarterfinal games. The championship game has been moved from its longtime home at Erie Community College to Niagara County Community College in Sanborn.
It may be cold outside, skies are gray and the trees are bare, but this has always been Shaw's favorite time of year.
"We're going to take this to where we need to go," he said. "This time of year it's execution, don't turn the ball over, control the boards -- all the little things coaches like to say, but they're all so true. It's a one-and-done situation. You lose focus at a certain time in a game, this time of year, and you're done."
Lockport's strength is its post players Marisa Guyton and Emma Sobieraski, four-year players who bring height and smarts. Point guard Pattie Burdick is a gamer.
Lockport (15-3) would love to have the loss at the buzzer to Kenmore West back or last week's 37-36 defeat at Grand Island, which cost it a chance at the Niagara Frontier League title, but Shaw keeps his eyes on the prize.
"We've had some really tough games these last couple weeks. That's going to make my kids that much tougher to beat down the stretch," he said. "It doesn't matter what you are in November and December, January and early February. This is the time of year it's most important to play your best basketball."
While Shaw prepares to make another run at a title, he's not the only girls basketball coach in the school who's having a big year.
Guidance counselor Karen Catalano, who coached in Shaw's program for seven years, has coached the last two seasons at Lancaster. Her Redskins (17-1) earned the No. 1 seed in Class AA. The teams could meet in the final because they're on opposite sides of the bracket.
Shaw said he and Catalano have "broached the topic" about playing each other.
Catalano would hardly need a scouting report to know what she'd be facing. She knows the Lockport players at least as well as her own, has worked Lockport's summer camp, coached the current players at the lower levels and sees many of them everyday in school. Shaw has been one of her many influences.
"He developed a culture of winning, the standard there is sectional championships," said Catalano, who played her basketball at Kenmore West. "I'm probably a direct disciple of him and [assistant coach] Pete [Dickinson]. We have a good thing going, we bounce things off each other. I definitely run a similar system, we have a lot of the same philosophy, that's where I learned my basketball from."
Lancaster won its first 16 games before a humbling 20-point loss on Friday to Shenendehowa in the first round of the Lockport Tournament, the same team Lockport beat by nine the next night. Unshaken, the Redskins recovered to beat Olean in the consolation.
The Redskins have been led all year by center Katie Healy, who's averaging 16.2 points per game and will be taking her talents to St. Bonaventure this fall. Sara Saba (13 ppg.) has had a breakout season playing opposite of Healy. Senior point guard Sam Wozniak (12 ppg.) is the school's career scoring leader and career leader in three-pointers.
Shaw has been impressed with what Catalano has done at Lancaster in a short period of time and knows they would give his team a battle.
"It's her drive, and the fact she's so committed to what she's doing. She puts her whole heart and soul into it, and today you just don't see a whole lot of young people who do that," said Shaw. "She's odd in that respect. As a professional, she's an extremely hard worker at school also. She gets a lot of what she knows from her father [Joe] and his style and the Xs and Os. She got some of that from just watching and learning in the Lockport program."