Rick Cetnar spends most of his time on the golf course these days, posting plenty of low scores, holes-in-one and eagles.
But he’s better known as one of the premier basketball players and coaches in Amsterdam area history.
The 70-year-old former Amsterdam High School and Bishop Scully head coach will be inducted into the Capital District Basketball Hall of Fame Sunday at the Troy Garden Hilton Inn.
Cetnar retired from coaching in 2001 with a lifetime record of 247-169. He spent 31 years as an accounting teacher at Amsterdam, even after moving over to Bishop Scully to coach for 10 seasons. He eventually moved back to Amsterdam, where he coached his son, Todd, also a member of the CD Basketball Hall of Fame. He spent 17 seasons overall as the Rugged Rams’ head coach.
His best season as a coach was in 1994-95, when his Rams, including Todd Cetnar and Jason Mathias, advanced to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B championship game, losing to Poughkeepsie. That team finished 25-4, setting a school record for victories.
“That game against Poughkeepsie is one I’ll never forget,” Cetnar said. “Jason Mathias was one of my best players, and he could jump out of the gym. So I had this play where Todd would run the ball up. We’d set a back pick, and Todd would throw an alley-oop to Jason, who would dunk the ball.
“Back in those days, you could only hold onto the rim after a dunk if you were in danger of hurting yourself because players were underneath you. When Jason dunked the ball, he hung on the rim near some players, but he was called for a technical foul. They took the basket away, and Poughkeepsie got the ball and scored. It ended up being a seven-point swing, and we lost the game.”
Cetnar also coached a Scully team that finished 20-1.
“I originally went to Bishop Scully when Dutch Howlan got sick, but when he retired, I took over the team and stayed there for a while,” Cetnar said. “When they invited me back years later to coach Amsterdam again, I brought my entire Bishop Scully team back with me.”
Cetnar said he had certain coaching traits that he kept throughout his career.
“I started out as a man-to-man coach because of Bobby Knight, but I later developed a matchup zone. My matchup zone had different rules that I found out worked for me over the years,” he said.
“On offense, I liked to run a fast-break attack.”
Cetnar also used the AAU program to help build his team, but not the way teams use it today.
“We didn’t let our kids play on another AAU team. We had our own team that played in AAU events,” he said. “Our kids went to all the tournaments and played as our own team. We got beat, but we learned a lot, and it helped our team later on.”
Cetnar said the best players he ever coached were his son, Todd, and Mathias.
“I know Todd is my son, but I never saw a kid work harder in the offseason to improve his game.”
Cetnar was also an outstanding player himself. He graduated in 1962 after leading the Rams to a pair of Class A and sectional titles. He later played for Rocheter Institute of Technology before returning to teach and coach at Amsterdam.
“When I played high school basketball, I was going up against Pat Riley at Linton and guys like Bobby DeLuca and Warren DeSantis. We became great friends later on, but when we played together, we didn’t like each other one bit,” he said.