CLIFTON PARK — Chemistry, on and off the court, is key to any basketball team's success. Sharing the ball, providing help defense on the court and joking around on the many bus trips help contribute to a winning attitude.
Those bonds are forged on the court and can last for years. For some combinations, the bonds are forged long ago and last a lifetime.
Shenendehowa boys' basketball coach Tony Dzikas and one of his players certainly fall into that category. Junior Devin Dzikas is the son of Tony Dzikas, and the two share a love of the game. They both know how to score, too, even though their respective playing days are separated by decades.
Tony Dzikas played three years of varsity basketball at Waterford-Halfmoon from 1986-1989 and scored 1,118 points for the Fordians. Devin Dzikas will have the same three-year experience on a varsity squad, but on the perennial powerhouse Plainsmen, who secured Wednesday the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Section II Class AA tournament.
"I averaged 10 or 11 boards for Coach [Don] Joss just because I would want to get it," said Tony Dzikas, who also previously coached his older son Jake Dzikas. "If the ball was there and you were there, I was going to try to knock you over to get it.
"Devin is smarter than that. He's a smarter player and he sees the floor much better than I ever did."
Playing for smaller Waterford-Halfmoon, Tony Dzikas didn't necessarily play with the type of depth now available to him as a coach at Shenendehowa.
"We didn't go beyond six guys," Tony Dzikas said. "Here at Shen, we've got a lot of guys working year-round and we go, religiously, nine — most of the time, 10 [deep]."
The short bench in Waterford also allowed the elder Dzikas to thrive in his favorite part of the game.
"[High school teammate] Kyle O'Brien and I both scored 1,000 points and graduated the same year, so there were times we shot the ball almost every game," Tony Dzikas said. "I remember one game we scored 76 points and I think we had 72 of them."
Devin, his second son to play for him, won't be a 1,000-point scorer for Shenendehowa. Both Dzikas' are comfortable with that.
"He has great vision, he sees the floor nicely," Tony Dzikas said. "You can see when he penetrates he finds that open guy and for a big kid who weighs about 210 he gets up in the air, spins a 180 and throws it in mid-air.
"That's where he's got the old man. He's a much better passer than I ever was."
Comparable in frame to the 1989 Fordian Dzikas, the current Plainsman is 6-foot-2. Devin Dzikas has had to change his game several times.
"When I was younger, I was always taller. Then, as I got older, I became average [height] and I started shooting outside more," Devin Dzikas said.
He was a 3-point threat as a sophomore before becoming more of a presence in the paint this season.
"Last year, we also had James [Altenburger], so he would get a lot of rebounds," Devin Dzikas said. "This year, we don't have many big guys that are just going to get every rebound by themselves, so everybody on the team needs to contribute to rebounding."
The Dzikas' aren't the only parent-and-child combination coaching and playing in this year's Section II postseason. Other notable combinations include Saratoga Springs girls' basketball coach Robin Chudy and daughter Natasha Chudy, Mechanicville girls' basketball coach Blain Goverski with daughters Charli and Chloe, as well as Cambridge girls' basketball coach Bob Phillips and twin daughters Lilly and Sophie.
After coaching Jake Dzikas — a 2018 graduate — the Shenendehowa coach said he has a better handle on coaching one of his kids.
"One thing I've learned from doing this for the second time: It's OK to compliment your own son," Dzikas said. "If I was to compliment someone else's kid for doing something good on the court, I'm going to compliment my own son. I've gotten much better at that."
That didn't mean there wasn't growing pains for the father and his son.
"It can be hard playing for your father, especially when I can get pretty passionate during games, get passionate at practice and I can get into it a little bit," Tony Dzikas said. "Sometimes, that voice is a little louder because I'm Dad as well.
"But we've done a good job of establishing and having an open line of communication."
Being a coach's kid, too, never guarantees playing time.
"It's our second year together, and last year was a nice surprise," Tony Dzikas said. "I was shocked at how many minutes he got. He started for a third of the games, and we were pleasantly surprised. He was surprised by it.
"This year coming in, I knew he was going to be an integral part of the team and he's proven to be so. Fortunately, for me, I've got a whole another year with him."