Scotia-Glenville was down by three late in the third quarter of the state Class A championship game, and Tartans coach Jim Giammattei never flinched.
“I believe kids do take the personality of their coach, to some extent,” Giammattei said. “If they see me getting rattled, they tighten up.
“Down two, down three, if you’re out of control, why wouldn’t you think that they’d be out of control?”
Scotia-Glenville maintained its poise that Saturday at the Glens Falls Civic Center, and then kicked in with two of the things Giammattei has been emphasizing for years — defense and passing — and the points came in bunches.
“It is systematic, that’s for sure,” Giammattei, a math teacher at the high school, said of his formula for success. “When it’s all working, one thing leads to another.”
With a 9-3 run to close the third quarter and 21 unanswered points in the next, the Tartans forged a 66-44 victory over East High of Rochester and captured the school’s first New York State Public High School Athletic Association title.
The following weekend, Scotia-Glenville capped a 27-0 season with a pair of wins at the New York State Federation Tournament of Champions at the Times Union Center. The defense-to-transition-to-points equation was again a factor in those successful outings against Albany Academy and Holy Trinity, and so was the cool displayed by Giammattei and his players when things got sticky.
“No question. I used to be more animated, but that’s changed over the last number of years,” said Giammattei, who graduated from Scotia-Glenville and has been its varsity coach since 1991. “The way we are, it just fits. We’re going to try to stay poised and figure out what we’re going to do. We’ll put our energy into that.”
“Even in the Troy game, he was calm,” S-G assistant coach Mark Sausville said of a 77-75 double-overtime win in the Section II final. “He was not fretting about every mistake. He’s gotten better at that.”
Giammattei can’t remember the last time one of the suit coats he is well-known for went flying in protest of a call.
“Probably the last time I got a technical. And that was years ago,” Giammattei said of his calm demeanor. “Kids see things. Kids are aware of it and they respond well to it and respect it.”
Giammattei is much more comfortable talking about all of the players he’s coached than talking about himself. The 51-year-old father of two is not only an excellent mentor, but a humble one, as well.
“You don’t get 339 wins because you had one good year,” said Giammattei, whose past rosters featured the likes of Ryan Wotherspoon, Chris Rogers, Jim Janson, Terence Coppola and Terell Winney. “That shows what great kids we’ve had. Even in the years when we didn’t have the greatest skill, we battled and found another way to win.”
All but four of Giammattei’s 23 teams finished with double-digit wins, and 14 of them prevailed 15 times or more, including his last six. Seven of his Tartan teams won outright or shared Foothills Council championships. His resume also shows five Section II title-game appearances since 2009 and four first-place flags.
A constant with all of Giammattei’s teams has been superb effort. It’s a trait that’s drawn compliments even from their fiercest rivals.
“I believe playing hard is a skill. It can be developed, like shooting a basketball. Kids can be taught, and our program represents that,” he said.
At Scotia-Glenville, it’s follow the leader.
“I think it would be difficult to ask a player to work as hard as they can and give everything they’ve got and not do it yourself,” Giammattei said. “If the kids are going to do it, you’ve got to do your job, too.”
“He prepares as good as anybody I’ve seen. He’s like [former Schenectady coach] Gary [DiNola] was,” said Sausville. “He’ll watch a film and then watch it again, and then he’ll call me or [Scotia-Glenville assistant] Glenn [Stopera] and ask what did we see. He doesn’t like to leave anything to chance, and then in practice, he explains things over and over again.”
The teacher was like a student cramming for a major exam before Scotia-Glenville met up with Holy Trinity to decide the Federation title. Scotia-Glenville had defeated Albany Academy the night before that game, 70-57, and became just the second Section II boys’ team to latch onto a Federation crown when it followed with a 68-52 triumph.
“We played Albany Academy Friday night, and by the time we got to our walkthrough for Holy Trinity the next day, I had watched four of their games,” Giammattei said. “I was just doing my homework.
“I feel I know when we’re ready to play. I study people, and if I can go in and run the other team’s practice, we’re ready to play,” he continued. “I felt if I had a chance to go to John Glenn or Holy Trinity and worked on their offense, I would have known what they needed to do and what they wanted to do.”
Scotia-Glenville slowed down the John Glenn offense just as its had in most other games when it posted an 81-50 win in the NYSPHSAA semifinals. The Tartans, with their trademark 3-2 zone, held 20 of their 27 opponents this season to 50 points or less.
“That’s a mentality,” Giammattei said of his team’s defense. “That’s a culture.”
Sharing the ball is, too, and this season’s group, led by Joe Cremo. Alex Sausville, Dom LeMorta, Scott Stopera and Mike Palleschi, excelled in that phase. When the Tartans beat John Glenn, they chalked up 18 assists on 32 baskets, and increased that ratio against East High with 20 assists on 25 hoops.
“In my mind, passing is the most under-developed skill,” said Giammattei. “Obviously, you’ve got to pass against a zone. The dribble won’t be available, so we work on it.”
For Giammattei, the work is never complete.
“He’s always researching. Always talking to his connections in the college and pro game,” said Sausville. “He’s always looking for the next thing to help his team win.”
“Why wouldn’t I keep trying to learn? If you think you know all there is about the game, it’s a sure recipe for failure,” Giammattei said.