Here’s my story that will run in Saturday’s Journal News about Lou Panzanaro, who will retire from coaching at season’s end:
Lou Panzanaro began to contemplate retirement five or six years ago, back when he first wondered if his message to players still crossed an age gap widening into a canyon.
Be it then or at each moment of doubt since, Panzanaro’s dad Lou Sr. — a Peekskill star from way back in the 1930s and still a sideline fixture at games – had asked his son to stay. This time the answer changed.
“My father just turned 99,” said the younger Panzanaro, now 67 himself. “At 93 he said, ‘Can you give me two more years?’ So when I told him this year, he said again, ‘Can you give me one more year?’ I said, ‘No, not this time.’”
Panzanaro has termed his decision “definite.” After 38 years coaching basketball at Peekskill – and a 31-year stretch as the varsity coach highlighted by five state titles — he will step down at the end of the season.
The area’s winningest boys basketball coach ever said the demands of coaching and working as the school’s athletic director has become too much to balance.
“I can feel it,” said Panzanaro, whose 572 wins are 15th in state history. “I still love it, but doing the AD thing and coming over here, I feel I don’t have the same intensity in practice. When I lose that, I don’t want to do it anymore.”
Panzanaro expects to remain the athletic director for at least two more years. Although the school hasn’t named his successor, he said longtime assistants Tim Turner and Tony Jackson have expressed interest.
Panzanaro was once the successor to a legend. He joined the staff of John Moro, who won 410 games in 26 seasons. He replaced Moro after seven seasons as the JV coach and has been in that role ever since except for a brief sabbatical when he joined the school’s most prominent basketball alumnus, Elton Brand, in the NBA.
Panzanaro’s best success began with Brand; they won two state titles together in the 90s. Peekskill went on to win three more during a five-year stretch from 2005-09 that saw Panzanaro post a record of 122-15. His five state titles are tied for the second-most in state history, one behind Mount Vernon’s Bob Cimmino.
Panzanaro told his current team about his retirement earlier this season. He had originally thought about stepping down following last season when his step son Dan Casey graduated.
“I’ve been talking about it for five years,” he said. “I said I was going to go after Dan leaves, but I had all these juniors returning and I decided I would stick with them.”
THE LOU PANZANARO FILE
Career record: 572-131
Section 1 titles: 10
State titles: 5
Federation titles: 3
Honors: Member of the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame