MECHANICVILLE – It was a difficult decision for Alex Lilac, but it had nothing to do with giving a grade or cutting a player.
After six years as a physical education teacher, five years as varsity boys’ basketball coach and two years as athletic director at Hoosic Valley, Lilac was appointed as a PE teacher for grades 6-12 and varsity boys’ basketball coach at Mechanicville on Thursday.
“I’ve definitely dug my roots here the last few years, particularly on the basketball side,” Lilac said. “But at the end of the day, it was what’s best for my family — I’m getting married in September.”
Lilac follows Rian Richardson, who led Mechanicville’s boys’ basketball teams for the past 13 seasons.
“I have a lot of respect for the culture at Mechanicville, both the school and the athletic department,” said Lilac, who noted how helpful and supportive Mechanicville Junior/Senior High School Principal Mike Mitchell was throughout the process.
“I’ve known him for a while, and he understands how difficult the process was for me, and he made me feel easy no matter what my decision was,” Lilac said.
Mitchell said that’s because when he came to Mechanicville four years ago, he was in the same situation.
“I said to him, whatever you decide, I will understand. I stayed neutral, but I’m glad it worked out. He’s accomplished a lot and he’s not even 29,” Mitchell said.
Lilac, the son of Hoosick Falls’ legendary coach Mike Lilac Jr., has led Hoosic Valley’s boys’ basketball teams to the Class C final this past season, as well as the Class CC semifinals in 2021-22 and 2019-20.
Mitchell said Lilac’s skills as a teacher came well before his reputation as a basketball coach.
“He’s able to deal with the personalities, and is someone that kids identify with. It was his relationship with kids who weren’t athletes that impressed me. He’s passionate and he loves kids.”
Basketball-wise, Mitchell remembers watching the Hoosic Valley basketball team in the 2019-20 season, and coming away impressed.
“They looked like they would run through a wall for him,” said Mitchell, who noted about 25 Mechanicville students were at Thursday’s Board of Education meeting to support Lilac’s hiring. One hour after the hiring, Lilac was able to get in the gym and hold an off-season workout.
“I’m just excited for a new challenge,” Lilac said. “Of course, Class B is a different animal, but coming from the Wasaren League, which is tough year-to-year and prepares you well, and having really good kids here at Mechanicville, I’m excited to see how we do.”
Mitchell knows following Richardson and jumping up into Class B are daunting, but he has given Lilac his backing.
“I told him, ‘Just be Alex Lilac,’ ” Mitchell said. “Our school district got a lot stronger [Thursday].”