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Battaglia steps down as Park basketball coach

Park School and boys basketball coach Mike Battaglia have gone their separate ways.

Battaglia confirmed to The News that he stepped down as leader of the Pioneers – a program he guided to prominence during his seven seasons. Battaglia led the Pioneers to the New York State Federation Tournament of Champions crown in 2015, en route to him earning state Class B Coach of the Year honors.

"The athletic director and I weren't seeing things the same way, it's as simple as that," said Battaglia as to why he resigned. He declined to offer more specifics.

Park Athletic Director Marcus Hutchins said he "didn't see any friction" between him and Battaglia -- adding he was surprised by the resignation.

"He didn't speak with me when he decided to step down; He spoke with the head of the school (Chris Lauricella) when he stepped down," Hutchins said. "We are very appreciative of his contribution to The Park School, particularly to athletics."

Whoever winds up replacing Battaglia will have big shoes to fill.

Under Battaglia's direction the Pioneers rose from just a bit program to a major player on the Western New York basketball scene. Battaglia, whose day job is being a physician, compiled a 104-46 record at Park, which has averaged nearly 20 wins each of the past three seasons.

He helped negotiate Park basketball's transition from the IAC to the Monsignor Martin  Association. He led the Pioneers to the Manhattan Cup Class B championship in 2015, just its second year in the league, with a roster that included then junior Jordan Nwora, a two-time first team All-Western New York selection who will play next season at Louisville.

Park moved up to Class A for the 2015-16 season, reaching the Manhattan Cup final where it dropped a two-point decision in overtime to Canisius in a battle between reigning Federation champions (the Crusaders won the Class A crown in 2015). Three of the Pioneers' losses came against Canisius during that 20-4 campaign.

Last season, Park played one of the toughest schedules in the area – posting a 17-6 record with three of the losses coming against eventual Manhattan Cup runner-up St. Francis. While a Pioneers team devoid of seniors lost six games -- four in overtime, it did not lose to any opponent by more than six points. It also did not lose to any public schools on its schedule.

While Battaglia said it was the right time for him to leave Park, he's not ready to hang up his whistle just yet. He hopes to land a coaching job somewhere in the area.

"I am so grateful to have had the opportunity at Park," said Battaglia, who thanked former athletic director Tom Ford and Lauricella for giving him a chance. "We were successful and it was fun. The people were outstanding. It's a wonderful thing.

"It's not time to stop coaching. It's just time to step down at Park."

Hutchins said Park will open up a search for its next coach soon, but the door might be ajar for a Battaglia return.

"I would love for him to come back and be part of what we have," Hutchins said. "To me there's no friction, but we are going to open up a search for the position."

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