Here is my story on Stony Point native Mike Deane’s return to the NCAA tournament.
Throughout Mike Deane’s 24 years as a Division I men’s basketball head coach, there was one constant.
Whether it was Siena, Marquette, Lamar or Wagner, the Stony Point native could always count on one fan from his hometown to come to at least one game a season. Len Sterling, the former North Rockland boys basketball coach and a member of the school’s sports hall of fame, made sure to cheer on his former player at least once a season.
“The loyalty that you learned at North Rockland is a very real thing,” said Deane, a 1969 graduate of what was formerly known as Haverstraw-Stony Point High School.
That’s why Sterling will be in the stands Wednesday night when No. 16 James Madison, where Deane is an assistant coach, takes on No. 16 LIU-Brooklyn in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Dayton, Ohio. Sitting with Sterling will be his son Tim, who played with Deane in high school, and Deane’s wife, Paula.
Sterling was able to attend more games this season due to his proximity to JMU’s campus in Harrisonburg, Va. Despite having retired from coaching, Sterling has plenty of knowledge left to impart to his former player.
“He tells me what we’re doing wrong whenever he wants to,” Deane said.
Wednesday’a game will mark Deane’s fifth appearance in the NCAA Division I tournament, all with different teams. Deane is one of only 28 coaches in NCAA history to lead three different schools (Siena, Marquette, Lamar) to the NCAA tournament as a head coach. In addition to this season with JMU, Deane made an appearance in the NCAA tournament with Michigan State as an assistant.
After coaching Wagner in the 2009-10 season, Deane spent time “chopping up the local golf course” in his wife’s hometown of Amsterdam, N.Y. When JMU head coach Matt Brady, who played for Deane at Siena, offered him a spot on his coaching staff this summer, he jumped at the opportunity.
“I have no qualms about the assistant role,” said Deane, who was a head coach for 30 years. “I enjoy it at this stage in my career.”
The two had a conversation prior to Deane’s hiring about his ability to go from a decision-making role to a suggestion-making one. Deane made it clear that would not be a problem.
“I said, ‘Matt, I’m 61 years old. I understand the role of the assistant better than anyone because I’ve had so many of them,’ ” Deane said.
Much like Sterling, Deane enjoys seeing his former player succeed.
“It’s great to see our former players and assistants develop and mature and evolve in the profession,” Deane said. “To be part of it with Matt is definitely special.”