Joe Loudis was voted into the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame late last year based on an outstanding body of coaching work. He’ll be inducted Saturday with several new additions to his impressive resume, after engineering one of the greatest seasons in Mechanicville High School’s storied history.
“This has got to be my most rewarding season,” the veteran coach said. “There’s no way in my wildest dreams did I think we’d go from six wins to second in the state. We didn’t have the greatest athletes, but they played as a team, and they overachieved.”
So it will be with four Section II championships and three state final four appearances that Loudis gains his hall of fame enshrinement at the Glens Falls Civic Center. The 65-year-old has 422 wins spanning 30 seasons with Cohoes and Mechanicville, as well, which ranks 10th on the all-time Section II list.
Loudis will follow 2007 inductee George Mardigan, the all-time Section II victory leader from Watervliet, as well area high school coaching standouts Jack Dunlap, Mike Lilac, George Khoury, Jim Zullo, Paul Lyons and Bill Kalbaugh — who directed Mechanicville’s famed “Whiz Kids” in the early 1950s — into the hall of fame.
The hall of fame brunch and induction ceremony starts at 11 in the morning at Heritage Hall, and will take place in conjunction with the New York State Federation Tournament of Champions.
“To be grouped with coaches like Jim Boeheim, Sig Makofski and Lou Carnesecca, and players like Roger Brown and Connie Hawkins, it’s amazing. I’m elated, and a little nervous, too,” said Loudis, who was born and raised in Schenectady. “You’ve got to get up there and give a speech, but there’s nine of us, so it has to be short. Maybe five minutes or so. Thank goodness.”
Loudis will likely work in something Saturday about his most recent team, which, like his 1996 edition, reached the state Class C championship game. Mechanicville went 6-16 last season, and equalled that win total in the playoffs alone en route to a 21-6 record this season, with essentially the same cast of players.
Mechanicville’s late-season charge started after a 69-49 February loss to Lansingburgh. The popular, easygoing Loudis displayed his fiery side that night to get a point across, and his Red Raiders responded.
“We beat them [Lansingburgh] the first time we played. In that second game the kids were going one-on-one and doing this and that, and I wasn’t very happy,” Loudis recalled. “We were down 12 with three minutes to go, and I substituted for all the starters. They weren’t doing the things we wanted, and I had to send a message. After that, we won seven in a row. The kids got it.”
Mechanicville beat Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk to close the regular season, and in the sectionals, behind Pat Marra, Paul MacMillan, Josh Gagliastri, Josh Rougia, Nick Lettrick and Chris Grayson, it eked out victories against Stillwater, Cambridge, Voorheesville and Rensselaer by a total of 15 points. A regional rout of Ticonderoga and a one-point state semifinal triumph over Friends Academy came afterward, before Maple Grove ended the Red Raiders season.
“I can’t say enough about this group of kids,” Loudis said. “I figured they’d win 12 games. They put together a great run.”
Loudis’ 1996 team did, too, and was the talk of all Section II after limiting playoff foes Tamarac (21), Schenectady Christian (23), Hudson (32), Voorheesville (39), Hoosic Valley (27) and Canton (37) to 179 points as a springboard to the state semifinals.
The Red Raiders beat Red Hook in the semis before losing in the state final to Buffalo Traditional, and finished with 23 victories. Buffalo Traditional also ended Mechanicville’s 1995 season, in the state semis.
“The Schenectady Christian game stands out,” said Loudis, whose 1996 team featured Rian Richardson, Nick Maciariello and Matt DeVoe. “We were tied at the half, and we outscored them in the third quarter, 12-0. They got the first basket of the fourth quarter, and we shut them out the rest of the way.”
That quick and smart Mechanicville team excelled playing Loudis’ trademark 3-2 zone defense.
“I went to clinics, picked things up here and there, and made some things up myself,” Loudis said of his unique defensive scheme. “We try to take away the other team’s strength and take advantage of weaknesses. We try to block all of the passing lanes and create turnovers. We try to play offense on defense.”
Loudis was a defensive pest in his playing days at Mont Pleasant High School and the University at Albany, and he’s been preaching its importance to youngsters since 1965 when he took over the Cohoes freshman team. Loudis directed the Tigers’ junior varsity the following season, and in 1967 began a 21-year journey with the high school’s varsity. During that span, the Tigers won 293 games, seven Colonial Council championships and the 1973 Section II Class B title.
“I had some great teams at Cohoes,” Loudis said.
Loudis nearly won another sectional crown with Mechanicville in 2003, when his Red Raiders edged Hadley-Luzerne in the Class C quarterfinals in overtime, beat Canajoharie by two in the semis and then bowed to Lake George in another OT contest.
“That’s the only sectional game I’ve lost at the Civic Center,” Loudis said. “We’re 10-1 there. We’ve done very well.”
Loudis’ first run with Mechanicville went from 1993-1996, and his second from 2001-04. He did not coach in the 2004-05 season due to heart bypass surgery, and more health concerns arose prior to this season.
“In October, I wasn’t doing so well,” said Loudis, who with Nancy, his wife of 31 years, has three sons — Joey, Scott and Eric. “I had pneumonia. My lungs and kidneys failed. I didn’t know if I’d be able to coach.”
Yet he did, and with his trusty towel draped over his shoulder, Loudis took Mechanicville to heights never imagined.
“As long as I’m healthy, I’m going to stay in it. I still enjoy it,” said the Loudis, who retired as a Cohoes business teacher in 2000 after 35 years. “I love the practices and the teaching part of it.”
Loudis will be inducted into the Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame in September based on his coaching resume and own athletic achievement at Mont Pleasant, where he excelled in basketball, tennis, distance running and baseball. He was a member of the 1954 Schenectady Little League world championship team which was enshrined in the Schenectady CSD hall in 2005