Gary Bynon thought his days of coaching varsity boys’ basketball were through after his Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake team was beaten by Schenectady in the 1998 Section II tournament semifinals.
“I never thought I’d be doing this again,” Bynon said Tuesday night as he scouted Niskayuna’s home game with Queensbury. “They needed someone to step up.”
Bynon took the varsity reigns Monday when George Dudas stepped down due to heath reasons. Bynon was coaching the junior varsity boys’ team, and had previous stints working with the BH-BL junior varsity girls and freshmen boys.
“When George stepped down, my thought process was, ‘I owe so much to this school district. It’s given so much to me,’ ” said Bynon. “They had a need, and the first thing that came to mind was, ‘I want to give back.’ ”
In Bynon, Burnt Hills has a pinch-hitter with all-star credentials. In his first stint with the varsity basketball team that lasted nine seasons, the Spartans finished above .500 five times, won a pair of Suburban Council Gold Division championships, and in 1991, captured the Section II Class B title.
More recently, Bynon is better known for his varsity girls’ volleyball teams that have won 25 league, 18 Section II, 14 regional and five state championships.
“Gary is not going to go half-speed,” said Burnt Hills athletic director Bob McGuire. “He’s totally dedicated to what he does, and always looks out for what’s best for the kids.”
“I want to work as hard as I can to make this a special season,” Bynon said.
Burnt Hills will play its first league game tonight at Saratoga Springs. The Blue Streaks beat Glens Falls (48-33) and Guilderland (66-64) at their tip-off tournament last weekend.
“We’re looking to go out and try to be successful. I’m not into the ‘We’ll get there in a while,’ ” said Bynon. “We’re going to do what we can do and try to win it.”
Burnt Hills has six players back from last season’s team that won seven games led by scoring leader Robbie Knightes (14.7 ppg.). Knightes scored 29 points when the Spartans beat Shenendehowa, 66-57, for their biggest victory of the season.
“I like this team a lot. We’re hoping to go places this year and do something in the sectionals,” said Knightes, a senior guard. “It’s all positive thinking right now.”
Senior center Nate Sawyer, senior forward Max Batty, junior forward Drew Haughey and junior guards David Wellington and Austin Nydeggar are BH-BL’s other varsity lettermen. The new group includes junior guard Josh Quesada, who, along with Sawyer and Batty, competed on the school’s state championhip football team.
“There have been some changes the last couple of days. We’re doing some things George did, and we’re doing some things I’m more comfortable with,” said Bynon. “We’ve got some great kids, and I like the way they’ve listened and responded.”
Throughout his coaching career, Bynon has been a big proponent of defense.
“You know me. It starts with that,” he said. “I dont want them to take possessions off. I want them to play defense every second of every possession. We need to get good at that.”
Staunch defense was a key ingredient in Burnt Hills’ run to the state volleyball championship last month.
“As a defender you try to take away what the other team wants to do, whether you’re playing basketball or volleyball,” said Bynon. “That’s what were going to try to do.”
“We’re not the biggest team, but we have a lot of desire,” said Wellington. “We’re definitely going to play hard.”
Dudas continues to teach at Burnt Hills. He coached the BH-BL varsity boys the last four seasons, and coached the school’s varsity girls for six seasons beforehand. His boys won the Section II Class A title in 2010, and his girls claimed the Section II Class A flag in 2005 en route to the state semifinals.
“George is dealing with a lot of stress right now. He’s got a lot going on in his life, and he’s been told to cut back. He’s got to take care of No. 1,” said McGuire. “Coaches are not invincible. They do a lot for a lot of kids and put a lot of pressure on themselves. Sometimes, you’ve got to take a step back.”
Dudas’ coaching resume includes a stint with BH-BL boys’ soccer team, which reached the state final in 2007. He previously coached boys’ basketball and girls’ soccer at Averill Park and Mechanicville, and also had a run with the Catholic Central boys’ basketball team.