Con­stantino re­signs as Ni­a­gara Falls coach af­ter nine sea­sons

Pub­lic crit­i­cism at root of de­ci­sion to step down

The Buffalo News - - HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL - By Miguel Ro­driguez

Sal Con­stantino still will walk the halls of Ni­a­gara Falls High School dur­ing the day. He’ll still keep track of grades of mem­bers of the boys bas­ket­ball team, mak­ing sure they are up to par so the play­ers don’t have is­sues mov­ing on to col­lege. He’ll con­tinue to root for the Wolver­ines like there is no to­mor­row. If they need a help­ing hand with some­thing, he’ll be there, too.

He just won’t be coach­ing dur­ing prac­tice or games any­more.

Con­stantino has stepped down as coach of Ni­a­gara Falls, one of the more high-pro­file boys bas­ket­ball jobs in Western New York, af­ter nine sea­sons.

He said his rea­son for leav­ing has noth­ing to do with play­ers or par­ents, but said a string of neg­a­tive com­ments that he and his fam­ily have heard from var­i­ous peo­ple out­side the pro­gram in the bas­ket­ball-crazed Cataract City.

“I’ve been out in pub­lic with my son and they’ve just walked up to me and (cursed at) me with my son there,” Con­stantino said. “The thing with peo­ple now … there’s no fil­ters. That’s worn me down.

“We’re try­ing to do best by the kids.”

That’s all Con­stantino has done since his days as an as­sis­tant un­der Hall of Fame coach Dan Baz­zani, since his days coach­ing with the Ni­a­gara Falls Po­lice Ath­letic League with play­ers such as Paul Har­ris and Jonny Flynn.

Con­stantino guided the Wolver­ines to five Sec­tion VI Class AA cham­pi­onships, in­clud­ing the last four, and a 139-54 record, per MaxPreps tab­u­la­tions. He also coached girls teams at Ni­a­gara Falls for two sea­sons be­fore suc­ceed­ing Gi­ulio Colan­gelo as boys var­sity coach af­ter the 2009-10 sea­son.

Falls’ sea­son ended March 16 with a 59-57 loss to even­tual state cham­pion West Ge­ne­see in a New York Pub­lic High Schools Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion Class AA semi­fi­nal in Bing­ham­ton.

”He’s ev­ery­thing that’s right about Sec­tion VI hoops,” Ni­a­gara Wheat­field coach and Ni­a­gara Fron­tier League chair­man Erik O’Bryan said. “He was al­ways about the play­ers first and not wor­ried about him­self. … He is go­ing to be missed.”

”Coach Con­stantino and his pro­gram have set the stan­dard for our Ni­a­gara Fron­tier League,” North Ton­awanda coach Ryan Moun­tain said. “Sal and his pro­gram have forced our pro­gram to get bet­ter. They are the best pub­lic schools pro­gram in Western New York.”

While most coaches keep track of ca­reer wins and losses, Con­stantino didn’t. He used a dif­fer­ent set of num­bers to mea­sure suc­cess. The fig­ures in­cluded:

• 22: Num­ber of Wolver­ines in col­lege or have grad­u­ated from col­lege.

• 4: Num­ber of se­niors from this sea­son’s Falls team head­ing to col­lege.

• 2: Num­ber of former play­ers in the mil­i­tary.

“I made the de­ci­sion be­fore the play­offs started,” said Con­stantino, who had told only ath­letic direc­tor John Con­tento. “I wanted the high­lights on the kids. I didn’t want it to be about Sal’s last hur­rah.

“I love those kids. What­ever they say Sal did for the kids dur­ing my time here, these kids have done equally and more for me.”

Harry Scull Jr./Buf­falo News file photo

Sal Con­stantino, cen­ter, coached the Ni­a­gara Falls boys bas­ket­ball teams for nine sea­sons, lead­ing them to five Sec­ton VI cham­pi­onships.

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