NISKAYUNA — On the night he was formally approved as the next Niskayuna High School boys’ basketball head coach, Mike Grasso got to work seeing his future players at a local summer league.
While there is plenty of basketball-related work for Grasso to do in his new role, he said the most important thing for him this summer is to start forming a connection with his athletes. The need to do that, he said, was a lesson he learned from his father Joe Grasso, who crafted together a legendary Section II coaching career as the Bishop Maginn football head coach from 1977 to 2015, a span in which he won 204 games.
“One of the things that my father was big on was just getting to know your players on a personal level. Investing in them. Caring about them before the athletics even come into play. That’s one thing that we’ve always harped on,” said the 39-year-old Mike Grasso, whose father died in 2016. “We want to know our players on a personal level, to know their backstory and show them how much you care about them. Then, you go from there.”
Grasso succeeds Ben Smith as Niskayuna’s varsity head coach after receiving Board of Education approval on Monday night. A Niskayuna resident who grew up in Colonie and starred in multiple sports at Bishop Maginn, Grasso played college football at Rhode Island before transferring to play baseball at the University at Albany. An 11th-round MLB draft pick in 2002, Grasso played multiple seasons of professional baseball.
Most recently, Grasso served as an assistant coach for Troy High School football. He said he will give up that role to focus on his head coaching job at Niskayuna.
“That’s the commitment that’s needed for this program,” said Grasso, whose coaching resume also includes prior stints as the head varsity baseball coach at Bishop Maginn and as an assistant coach for the school’s boys’ varsity basketball team under then-head coach Rich Hurley.
An insurance broker at 2001 Central Insurance Agency, Grasso has three young sons already involved in the Niskayuna sports scene at the youth level.
“So I know all the families. I know all the kids,” Grasso said. “I’m involved in every youth sport. For the last six years, I’ve gotten to know a ton of the families in the community.”
Grasso inherits a program that showed growth last season despite a losing record, and he said he’s ready for the challenge of guiding the Silver Warriors.
“I feel like this was the time to make the jump and see if I can help the school district excel on the basketball court,” Grasso said. “I felt like this was the right time. I’m looking forward to it.”