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Fame day awaits area coaches

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Bob Giordano and Bob Williams coached the same number of years, 28 seasons, at schools just 25 miles apart, albeit at different levels.

They touched thousands of young men’s lives with their on-court teaching, off-court guidance and ability to get the most out of their players.

So it’s only fitting that the longtime Beaver River boys basketball coach and the longest serving Jefferson Community College men’s basketball coach are being inducted into the Basketball Coaches Association of New York Hall of Fame at the same time.

Those two, along with former Canton Tech and SUNY Potsdam assistant coach Stan Cohen, will be honored beginning at 10 a.m. Sunday as part of the 10-man Hall of Fame Class in Heritage Hall of the Glens Falls Civic Center during the state championships.

The frenetic, high-energy Giordano and the low-key Williams did it with vastly different styles. But their success is a tribute to their love of the game, the kids who played for them and the schools to which they will forever be linked.

“To me, it was all about the kids. I was just there to help them be the best they could be,” said Giordano, who winters in Myrtle Beach S.C., but still has a home in Beaver Falls. “Just to be nominated for such an honor is a tribute to the players, coaches and fans that made my time at Beaver River so special.” For Williams, now a full-time resident of the Plantation at Leesburg, northwest of Orlando, Fla., joining an illustrious group of coaches is the highest honor he could receive.

“I’m very proud, and humbled at the same time,” said Williams, who spent 28 seasons at JCC as both a coach, winning 359 games, and as the Cannoneers’ athletic director. “I’ve received congratulatory phone calls and emails from lots of former players, and that means the most to me. I loved every minute of my 28 years at JCC, and this is a fitting way to finally close out that chapter of my life.”

Both said being inducted into the Coaches Hall of Fame the same year is kind of fitting.

“I always had the greatest respect for what Bob accomplished at Beaver River,” Williams said. “He was the master motivator, the master strategist and his kids played with his passion. But I could never get him to send me his good players.”

Said Giordano: “Bobby always had undersized kids who competed so hard. He never got a lot of big-time recruits, but his teams were always competitive and always fun to watch.”

Giordano, who saw his good friend and former Watertown High School coach Lew Kibling inducted into the Hall of Fame last year, said he was “totally stunned” when he heard the news of this year’s class.

“I read in the paper that Stan Cohen was going in, and that Bobby and I were also part of the class,” Giordano said. “I knew you had to be nominated, but I wasn’t quite sure what the process was. I guess a lot of people up north had been pushing for me for awhile.”

Among those was one of Giordano’s former players, Bill Burkhard, who was instrumental in gathering support for Giordano’s nomination and has been the point man for preparations leading up to the induction.

“A lot of people just assumed Bob was already in the Hall of Fame because of his record,” Burkhard said. “Those of us who played for Bob and have known him for a long time figured we’d better get him in before it is too late.”

Giordano, who began his tenure at Beaver River in 1964 after a stellar four-year playing career at Colgate University, posted a 416-167 career record. His 416 wins still ranks 12th all-time in Section 3 and is among the top 100 in the state.

Even more impressive were his 12 Frontier League regular-season titles, his eight playoff crowns and six Section 3 crowns.

Those numbers could have been even better if had not taken five years off to watch son, Rob, played at Colgate for four years.

“The thing I’m most proud of is that when we went on that 38-game winning streak (in the late 1970s), a lot of our wins were against much bigger schools like Carthage, Indian River and Watertown. Our kids always relished the competition (of the bigger schools) and felt like they could compete with anybody.”

This past fall, Beaver River named its basketball court in Giordano’s name. “Now that was the highest honor you could ever get,” he said.

Like Giordano, Williams was a standout college player. He was a first-team All-American at Broome Tech (now Broome Community College) before finishing his playing career at Lamar University in Texas.

He coached high school basketball at Charlotte Valley and Newark Valley before taking over the JCC reins in 1968.

“I had an idea of going to college to become an engineer,” said Williams, whose son, Bob Williams Jr., is a former JCC head coach (1995-1997) now on the sidelines at West Virginia Tech. “But after I played for such great coaches like Dick Baldwin (Broome Tech) and Billy Tubbs (Lamar), I said, “I think I can do that.”

Williams said he wanted to have a “positive affect on young people, and I always wanted to try it at the college level.”

Williams was twice honored as Region 3 Coach of the Year, and three of his players earned All-American honors.

He also served in leadership roles in Region 3 and the National Junior College Athletic Association, and was instrumental in the development of the Mid-State Athletic Conference, of which JCC is now a member.

“The thing I’ve missed the most is the camaraderie of the players, coaches and officials,” Williams said. “Back then, everybody was close and it was like a big family.”

In retirement, both Giordano, now 78, and Williams, 73, are avid tennis players. But they also watch basketball on TV, and in Williams’s case, in person.

He and Tom Myers, Williams’ s longtime scorekeeper and JCC bookstore manager who lives near Williams, often attend Central Florida and South Florida games in their area.

“It still give me goose bumps to watch the game,” Williams said. “Every game that is close you still feel your stomach in turmoil as if you were coaching again.”

Giordano sees a lot of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball in Myrtle Beach. “I’m not a big Syracuse fan because they always thought they were batter than us when we played them at Colgate,” Giordano said. “But in my four years there we beat them four times.”

Burkhard said he’s had responses from dozens of former players and acquaintances, many who plan to be in attendance to honor Giordano.

“Bob is loved and respected by so many people in our community and those who have been associated with him all these years,” Burkhard said. “It’s our time to pay him tribute and tell him ho much he meant to us.”

Giordano, and his family were planning to fly north to be in Glens Falls. Williams, however, will not be able to make the ceremony.

“We haven’t come north the last few years, and it’s a long trip for an old guy like me,” he said. “But I’ll be there in spirit.”





HEADING TO THE HALL

Stan Cohen, Bob Giordano and Bob Williams, three longtime coaches with north country ties, are being inducted into the Basketball Coaches Association state Hall of Fame on Sunday in Glens Falls.



THE COHEN FILE

School: SUNY Canton

Career record: 247-143, 16 seasons.

Won four Empire State Conference titles, also coached women’s team for 7 years and has been assistant coach for SUNY Potsdam men’s team for over 40 years.

College: Hobart College.



THE GIORDANO FILE

School: Beaver River

Career record: 416-147, 28 seasons.

Won 12 Frontier League regular season titles, 8 Frontier League playoff title, 6 Section 3 titles.

College: Colgate University.



THE WILLIAMS FILE

School: Jefferson Community College

Career record: 359 wins, 28 seasons.

Region 3 Coach of Year 1982, 1990.

College: Broome Tech, Lamar University

To read the Times’ previous story on Stan Cohen’s Hall of Fame selection, go to http://wdt.me/qzbaDp

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