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Longtime Scotia coach Giammattei steps down

Longtime Scotia coach Giammattei steps down

Wants to see his son play
Longtime Scotia coach Giammattei steps down
Jim Giammattei, left, who won two state titles coaching Scotia-Glenville boys’ basketball, has resigned.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber/Gazette Photographer

SCOTIA - There was no need for further elaboration when Jim Giammattei confirmed this week that he was stepping down as Scotia-Glenville High School's varsity boys' basketball coach after 26 seasons.

"I'm becoming a full-time dad," Giammattei said. "I'm not going to miss my son's games."

Jaden Giammattei will soon be starting his freshman year at Niskayuna High School. The 14-year-old plays both basketball and lacrosse for the Silver Warriors.

"I've coached everyone else's kids for 30 years," said Jim Giammattei, a 54-year-old math teacher at Scotia-Glenville, his alma mater. "It's time to be a father. It's four short years. I'm now a super fan."

Giammattei was a super coach who changed the culture and fortunes at Scotia-Glenville, and changed the style in which the Tartans played, with a huge focus on defense, passing and the 3-point shot. 

His teams won a pair of state Class A public school championships, in 2014 and 2015, and 400 games in all, though victories were few early in his varsity career after a three-year run with the Tartans' junior varsity. Giammattei's first varsity team prevailed just once and lost 19 times, and his next three notched six, eight and nine wins.

"We went through all the trials and tribulations, but each year we came back with a clear definition of what was essential to reach the summit," Giammattei said. "The first step is to have a clear, well-defined goal."

That was getting youngsters to play the game, and many of them who did later helped Scotia-Glenville in a string of successful seasons. Nine of those campaigns included Foothills Council championships, and five included Section II titles. Each of Giammattei's final 16 varsity teams had winning records.

"We determined if it was going to change, it would be from the ground up. We needed to get kids hooked on the game," said Giammattei, who, with Tim Dowling, Glenn Stopera and David Coppola, were among the early builders of Scotia's youth program. "There was no place to go but up, and we all got knee deep in it."

For years, Giammattei never climbed out, doing everything he could think of in and out of season to make his Tartans better.

"He took a lot of teams that didn't look like much and turned them into winners," Alex Sausville, who was a senior guard on Scotia-Glenville's 27-0 team that won New York State Public High School Athletic Association and New York Federation Tournament of Champions crowns in 2014, said. "Teams that didn't look so promising, he had success with them."

The winning started in the 1995-96 season, when the Tartans went 15-6. That was a season of transition, when they moved from the Suburban Council to the Foothills Council and began playing a 3-2 match-up zone defense that became a program trademark.

"If you ask any coach what's the most difficult thing to team players, they'll tell you it's attacking a zone," Giammattei said. "[The 3-2] not only helped us defensively, but offensively when we faced it. We saw it every day in practice, and realized what kind of damage we could do against it."

No Scotia-Glenville team played the 3-2 zone better than the 27-0 edition that was anchored by Joe Cremo, Dom LeMorta, Scott Stopera, Mike Palleschi and Sausville. Together they held 20 opponents to 50 points or less.

"I remember my sophomore year when he gave us booklets, and on the front it said, 'Scotia's 3-2 zone,'" Sausville said. "It was 30 pages. He drilled us on it."

Giammattei did his studying, as well.

"A lot of our success was because of his dedication," Sausville said. "He was so good at preparing. He'd watch five game films for a team we already beat by 20 just to make sure we were okay."

Giammattei was humble in discussing what was a huge contribution to the high school and community.

"I just tried to serve. It was a labor of love," the married father of two, whose final 22 teams all won at least 10 games,  said. "If you want them to work hard, you've got to lead by example."

Giammattei described what he did as filling a role, and he asked his players, from the stars to the reserves, to do the same.

"We had a system where we put principles and consistency above personal achievement," Giammattei said. "Simply put, I did my best to put players in the best possible position for them to be successful. In return, the team got stronger."

Among Giammattei's fondest game memories is Schuyler Sayles coming off the bench and nailing 3-point baskets in both overtimes when Scotia-Glenville beat Troy 77-75 for the 2014 Section II championship. Stopera's three foul shots in the closing seconds of the second OT eventually won the game, which was by far the Tartans' most difficult in their eight postseason games that season. 

"That's not a negative, playing a role," Giammattei said. "The kids bought in, and they got an Oscar for it. They may have been a supporting actor, but they got an Oscar. The perfect example is Schuyler Sayles."

Sayles had missed several deep attempts before his overtime heroics.

"Coach [Giammattei] gave you ultimate confidence," said Cremo, Scotia-Glenville's scoring leader during the two state title runs, said. "He'd give you a look or say a couple of things. You wanted to win for him."

Cremo said Giammattei built relationships with players that will last a lifetime.

"He made it a family environment," said Cremo, a two-time state player of the year and rising junior at the University at Albany. "From a personal standpoint, he is more than a coach to me. He is a friend and mentor. He'll talk to me about my life. I'll ask him how things are beyond basketball."

Sausville, a rising senior at St. John Fisher College, got a call from Giammattei just the other day.

"He was tough on you, especially when you were getting started, but he cared about you," Sausville said. "Even now that I'm in college, he's always contacting me and asking how I'm doing."

Giammattei, with his 400-174 record and slew of championships, will be inducted into the Scotia-Glenville Athletic Hall of Fame in September.

"He is the truest Tartan in every sense of the word," said Jamian Rockhill, S-G's athletic director. "He not only produced good basketball players, but good men, and the things he's done have transcended to other programs at our school. We're happy for him, but sad to lose him."   

Giammattei handed in his resignation Tuesday. The Rexford resident, who operates a paving company, plans to teach for one more year.

"I'd  like to thank the administration and the board of education for giving me the opportunity to coach the young men of this fine community," Giammattei wrote in an email to The Daily Gazette. "I would like to thank my players, past and present, for their loyalty and commitment to the program. The pleasure and privilege was mine. I have greatly enjoyed my tenure. I will always look upon my time here as one of personal and professional enrichment. I have achieved what I set out to do with the Scotia basketball program. I hope that I have played a meaningful role in advancing this outstanding community and promoting opportunity, pride, and growth for the Scotia-Glenville School District."

Giammattei, who played basketball, football and tennis in high school, said he will miss the games.

"The hard part is ... it's in your blood," he said. "It becomes a drug. If you have that competitive spirit in you, it gives you a venue to compete. I scored no points and had no assists, but I competed."

Giammattei said he has recommended S-G junior varsity coach Mark Sausville, the father of Alex, as his replacement. No one has been officially named.


1 - His victory total as a first-year varsity coach in 1991-92.

2 - New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A championships won by his Tartans, in 2014 and 2015.

3 - Junior varsity seasons Giammattei coached at Scotia-Glenville.

5 - Section II championships won by his Tartans, including four straight from 2012-15.

9 -Foothills Council titles (won outright or shared).

20 - Winning varsity seasons in his 26-season run. Giammattei's last 16 teams all won more games than they lost.

53 - Consecutive games won by those state title-winning teams.

78 - Consecutive games won vs. Section II teams from 2011-12 through 2015-16 seasons.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.


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