Gabe Michael said that St. Joe’s basketball has a reputation for winning. But living in the past won’t ensure success in the future.
That’s the message Michael is putting forth as he now takes over as the new head coach of the St. Joe’s varsity basketball team.
Michael comes to St. Joe’s after a very successful six-year stint at Williamsville South where he won four ECIC II Coach of the Year awards and helped guide the Billies to back-to-back Section VI Class A titles.
Michael said he was so very thankful for the opportunity former Will-South athletic director Kevin Lester gave him to coach varsity. And while the St. Joe’s job is simply too good of a chance to turn down, it was still hard to say goodbye to his Billies and Williamsville South High School.
“It really was. It was very difficult for me to make that decision,” Michael said. “The kids coming back at Will-South should be very successful and are great kids. I’d grown comfortable there. It’s a great place and I have nothing but wonderful things to say about it. I just think at the end of the day it was about a new challenge for me. I look forward to it and I know that St. Joe’s is a special place. It’s tough to turn that down.”
Michael will be replacing Mark Simon who won 300 games in his 18 years at St. Joe’s.
For Michael, the St. Joe’s hiring has an interesting parallel to his time at Will-South in that on both occasions he followed in the footsteps of an accomplished, long-time coach.
Michael, as many will recall, came into Will-South after the fire storm surrounding the dismissal of long time coach Al Monaco. A young and unproven head coach at the varsity level Michael went into a difficult situation and was able to find success.
The St. Joe’s situation, Michael said, is much different. While Michael didn’t know Al Monaco, he has a strong friendship with Simon, who has been nothing but helpful during this transition period.
“Coach Simon was one of the people who really talked me into (applying for the position). I spoke with him a couple times and he was so positive about the situation,” Michael said.
“He was excited for me which really helped. He’s been at the school 18 years, he knows the ins-and-outs and he’s someone I feel real comfortable picking up the phone and calling. Coach Monaco and I had no relation, and that’s nothing against him it was just the situation. To have Mark as a friend and someone who is obviously really willing to help will make a huge difference for me going forward.”
Michael said the summer will obviously be important time for he and the kids to get to know each other better through summer league, open gyms and weight room sessions as they build that bond.
Meeting with his new team this past Wednesday, Michael didn’t pull any punches regarding his thoughts about what it will take to get the Marauders back in contention.
“I also told them, and I think it’s important, that tradition does not win basketball games,” he said.
“We have to find a way to win basketball games now to keep the tradition alive.”