Commentary by David Yarger
On Sunday, Niagara Falls High School basketball coach Sal Constantino stepped down.
Constantino, in nine seasons, won five Section VI championships (eight appearances), six Niagara Frontier League titles and made one New York State Final Four.
As a graduate of Niagara Falls High School, I know any coach for the Wolverines is held to a high, 2004-05-state-title-winning standard. If you don’t win by 30 points, or so and so doesn’t score 35 points a game, the world is ending.
On Sunday, I read an article on the Niagara Gazette website that described some of the treatment Constantino faced during his tenure.
I am disgusted.
Part of the article reads, “He trailed off before describing a number of confrontations with members of the community, both inside and out of the NFHS Wolvarena.
“One time, Constantino was accosted while taking his son to a local bowling alley.
“Another NFHS fan was banned from the Wolvarena after shouting obscenities, including racial slurs, during a game. Constantino said a city councilman called on that fan's behalf to ask that he be reinstated.
“One parent, after their child was cut from Constantino's team, said they hoped his son would commit suicide.”
As a lifelong NF resident and attendee of the Falls school district, I am nothing but beside myself after hearing this.
This is a high school basketball coach.
Sal wasn’t coaching the LeBron James’ of the world at the professional level. He was guiding the future athletes we’ll one day see on higher levels.
But, you know what, if you talk to Sal, it’s the character of his kids that he cares about the most.
Sal could be undefeated and on his way to another title, but if you go up to him, the first thing he’ll mention is how proud he is that his seniors are heading to college and on the right path.
He will be the first to admit that there might be better coaches on the court. Even if there are, you won’t find a better role model for NF than Sal.
Reading about the harsh treatment he went through (and seeing some firsthand) was extremely disheartening.
As a graduate of NF, I know how Sal would go above and beyond for anyone in the district to see them go down the right path. Sal has taken kids who have been completely written off and guided them to college programs.
A Facebook user responded to one of my posts about the matter Sunday afternoon and said, “In order to play for Sal, you had to be three things. In order: No. 1 – a good person, No. 2 – a good student and No. 3 – a good player. No. 3 didn’t matter if you weren’t the first two.”
That user hit it right on the head.
Another user said, “Sal’s off the court work outshines his on court work everyday.”
It’s a very disappointing look for the whole city. The team has provided a lot of entertainment to the community for years, and to see how people mistreat their man at the helm is just plain wrong. In fact, it’s ignorant.
While the resignation takes a heavy weight off Sal’s shoulders, this is a bad look for the city, pushing away a role model the majority of players listened to and enjoyed being around.
I wish the best of luck to Sal in the future – and to the next person that steps into his shoes.