The city of Schenectady has lost its feisty little second baseman.
Joe Loudis, who won a Little League World Series championship in his youth and later coached title-winning high school basketball teams in a hall of fame career, died early Sunday morning of natural causes at Albany Medical Center with his family by his side.
Loudis was 78, and a year away from celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife Nancy. He is also survived by his sons Joey, Scott and Eric and their families, including three grandchildren.
"He was a legend," longtime friend and Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame chairperson Bob Pezzano said. "Starting when he was 11 years old, he was part of the landscape of Schenectady."
Loudis was a multi-sport standout at Mont Pleasant High School, played basketball at the University at Albany under another legendary figure in Doc Sauers, and coached the boys' basketball teams at Cohoes and Mechanicville for 31 seasons while piling up 428 wins. Later in life he was an assistant coach at Schenectady High School when his son, Eric, was running the Patriots boys' basketball team.
"Growing up, dads are dads," Eric Loudis said Sunday afternoon. "Once I got out of school and started coaching with him, he became my best bud. We always shared a lot of the same stuff."
Joe Loudis made friends easily and was liked and admired within and beyond athletic circles.
"It's hard to believe he's gone," Pezzano said. "He was something. Everybody knew him and loved him. He was a real popular guy. This is a tough day for a lot of people."
Joe Loudis, who taught business at Cohoes for 35 years ending in 2000, suffered several medical setbacks in recent years.
"He was a people person," Eric Loudis said. "He reached every genre of people and would give the shirt off his back. The last couple of months, being stuck in the nursing home, it was hard on him."
"Joey was one of the most beloved figures in our area," longtime friend and fellow multi-sport Mont Pleasant standout Don Blaha wrote in an email to The Daily Gazette. "He had a heart of gold. His love of wife Nancy and family was second to none. He will be dearly missed."
The elder Loudis was courtside for the final time back in March when Eric Loudis' Lansingburgh team took on Mekeel Christian Academy, and lost after a great tussle, in the Section II Class A championship boys' basketball game at Cool Insuring Arena.
"I had a little inkling," Eric Loudis said. "I felt this season might be his last. I wanted to win it for the kids, and for him."
Joe Loudis was an 11-year-old kid leading off and playing second base for the 1953 Schenectady team that finished second at the Little League World Series and the 1954 team that came back and won the title.
"He was not the biggest guy on the team, but he played with a lot of heart, and he was a smart player," Pezzano said.
Joe Loudis competed in tennis, cross country, basketball and baseball while at Mont Pleasant, and helped the school's baseball team go undefeated in 1960. He was also an excellent bowler and softball player.
"Joey was one of the best all-around athletes in Schenectady history," Blaha wrote.
Loudis once scored 80 points as an eighth-grader while playing in a Jewish Community Center intramural game.
"Everything he did, he was really good at," Pezzano said of the Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame, Upstate New York Basketball Hall of Fame and the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. "He was the No. 1 tennis player on his team and a fast runner, and he did very well in baseball and basketball."
As a basketball coach, Loudis gained notoriety for several things including the close bonds he formed with his players, his tell-it-like-it is candor, the trusty towel he'd sling over his shoulder and for his use of the 3-2 zone defense.
“I went to clinics, picked things up here and there, and made some things up myself,” Loudis had said of his unique 3-2 defensive scheme. “We try to take away the other team’s strength and take advantage of weaknesses. We try to block all of the passing lanes and create turnovers. We try to play offense on defense.”
When his Mechanicville team reached the state tournament 1996, it got there by shutting down Section II playoff foes Tamarac (21 points), Schenectady Christian (23), Hudson (32), Voorheesville (39) and Hoosic Valley (27) with its stingy defense.
"I play the 3-2 zone because that's what I was taught," said Rian Richardson, who starred for Loudis' in the mid-90s and currently coaches the Mechanicville varsity boys. "He stressed it. I stress it."
Loudis was a scrappy defensive basketball player in his days at Mont Pleasant and UAlbany, and began preaching its importance to youngsters in 1965 when he took over the Cohoes freshman team. Loudis directed the Tigers’ junior varsity the following season, and in 1967 he began a 21-year journey with the high school’s varsity. During that span, his Tigers won 293 games, seven Colonial Council championships and the 1973 Section II Class B title.
"He picked up things real quick," said Pezzano, who scouted players with Loudis for the Channel 13 all-stars. "He had a great mind for the game."
"A lot of the things I do are because of him," Eric Loudis said.
Joe Loudis coached at Mechanicville from 1993-96, 2001-04 and 2005-09, with three of his teams securing Section II championships and another denied in the final with an overtime setback. His editions in 1996 and 2008 made Class C state title game appearances, and his 1995 squad made it to the Class C state semifinals.
"I remember 1995 and 1996 like it was yesterday," Richardson said. "We had great high school careers because of coach Loudis."
Not only was Loudis a 2008 individual inductee into the Schenectady City School Athletic Hall of Fame, but his Little League World Series title team and undefeated Mont Pleasant baseball team were also honored at past ceremonies.
"He was a great coach, a great mentor and a great person," Richardson said.
Reach Jim Schiltz at [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.