New Erie Community College football coach Scott Pilkey admired two very different coaching styles during an eight-year tenure at the University at Buffalo.
Pilkey was a recruiting assistant and high school relations coordinator under both Turner Gill and Jeff Quinn.
“I really learned a lot under Turner,” Pilkey said. “The way he built relationships individually was really special. The way to develop the individual through belief; believe in each other in things not yet seen. That made a huge impression on me.”
“Where I learned the emphasis on the individual relationship from Turner, I learned infrastructure from Jeff,” Pilkey said.
By infrastructure, Pilkey means the administration of the football program, the management of the details, big and small, every day.
“A lot of people don’t give Jeff the credit,” Pilkey said, “but his infrastructure is the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen. I think this is Jeff Quinn’s legacy: We had among the highest GPAs in the Mid-American Conference.”
The 45-year-old Pilkey hopes to have a firm handle on both the personal touch and the organization as he tries to rebuild an ECC program that has struggled of late.
Pilkey was hired in February to replace Dennis Greene, who built the ECC program from scratch and ran it the past 14 seasons. Erie CC was wildly successful during Greene’s first seven years. But it has endured five straight two-win seasons.
Pilkey has the kind of connections ECC thinks are ideal for the job.
Pilkey played football at Williamsville North, Canisius College and UB. He knows ECC because he worked under Greene from 2001 to 2005, the last three years as defensive coordinator. He has deep roots in Western New York high school programs, due to his work at UB.
“I think the best quality we found in Scott is someone that was well-established with a recruiting network locally,” said ECC Athletic Director Peter Jerebko. “And obviously with him working at the University at Buffalo for as many years as he had, he established a network with four-year programs that our kids can move onto.”
More of ECC’s competitors in the last decade started offering at least partial scholarships and dorm living.
“Yes, it got more competitive,” Jerebko acknowledged.
Pilkey thinks the solution for ECC is aggressive pursuit of local talent. He started by adding two highly successful, veteran high school coaches as his coordinators. Tony Truilizio, formerly of Riverside and North Tonawanda, will coach offense. Frank Payne, who built a power at Iroquois, will coach defense.
“Our model of development is this: Nobody has our backyard,” Pilkey said. “You can have scholarships, but you’re all fighting over the same kids on the far end of the state. … We’re really emphasizing our Western New York connections.”
Pilkey also thinks he can draw a handful of players from Northeast Ohio and Pennsylvania due to ties he made while helping recruit at UB.
The Kats recently added five players from Burgard and five from South Park. This year’s suburban recruits include Williamsville South QB Sam Castronova, who was Buffalo News PrepTalk Three-Sport Player of the Year.
Pilkey uses the word relationships a lot. The past several years he ran a program called UBring, which helped local high school athletes seek scholarships and work on personal development in preparation for college.
“You are what you bring and what you bring is your gift to the world,” he says.
“My passion for human development is what drives me. Football is something I love and I’m fortunate to do. But education and development of potential is what my real goal is. It comes down to the individual relationship. If you don’t have that, you can’t succeed.
“And the greatest ones I always had,” he said, referring to his time at UB, “was with the parents. I think I was always a guy who got the hugs from the parents after the game, win or lose. After the game, it’d be: ‘Hey how’d my son do? Good to see you.’ My connection was family based.”
ECC’s locker rooms, weight room and meeting space on the South Campus all are only four years old. The team is adding $20,000 worth of new workout equipment this summer.
“I think the facilities are fantastic,” Pilkey said.
Says Jerebko: “He brings a positive energy when he walks into the room. He’s very optimistic about what he can do and what he’s already accomplished. I think that attracts the attention of the student athletes and the parents, as well.”