Yonkers native Parrotta takes own path
By JOE LOMBARDI
THE JOURNAL NEWS
Former Stepinac star Tom Parrotta, former varsity coach at Rye and junior varsity coach at Mamaroneck, is in his first season at head coach of Canisius College's men's basketball team.
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(Original publication: December 26, 2006)
When Tom Parrotta launched his basketball coaching career in 1992, he wasn't sure if it was the right move.
Parrotta, a Yonkers native, took over as Rye's varsity coach that year, succeeding former Stepinac and Fordham teammate Fred Quartlebaum, now an assistant at St. John's.
"I thought I didn't want anything to do with the game, unless I played," Parrotta said. "But you always come back to what you love, and I loved competing and playing basketball. I realized if I can't play it, what better way to stay involved than coaching?"
It's a philosophy that has served Parrotta well. Today, at age 40, he's in the midst of his first season as a Division I head coach at Canisius College in Buffalo. The Golden Griffins are coming off a 9-20 season - the fourth time they had lost 20 or more games in the last nine years.
But Parrotta said now was the right time to take on such a challenge. After coaching Mamaroneck's junior varsity team in 1993-94, he began a 12-year stretch in which he served as an assistant coach at Nazareth, Niagara and Hofstra.
"If you're an assistant coach and don't strive to be a head coach, you're in the wrong business," he said. "But I was careful not to jump at opportunities I didn't feel were right for me. Some guys in their early 30s think they have to be a head coach right then. I took a different path. I knew I had to be as prepared as possible."
Parrotta's familiarity with the MAAC helped interest him in Canisius. Fordham played in the MAAC before moving to the Patriot League and then Atlantic 10. Niagara went 49-37 and reached the MAAC semifinals twice during his six years coaching under Jack Armstrong and Joe Mihalic.
"I played in the league and coached in the league," said Parrotta, who graduated from Stepinac in 1984. "And I love the fact that Canisius is in New York. And that it's a small school. I love that the administration is buying into what we're doing here.
"We want to compete every day, whether it's in the weight room, individual workouts or classroom. We want our players to carry themselves like Division I student-athletes whether they're on campus, off campus or in a bus or in a hotel. They are under a microscope because everyone knows who they are."
Canisius is off to a 4-7 start, but Parrotta is encouraged. The Golden Griffins built a 15-point first-half lead in an 81-71 loss to Syracuse on Nov. 25 before an HSBC Arena regular-season-record crowd of 14,823 - the second-highest attendance for a home game in school history. Canisius outrebounded the Orange 54-32.
The Golden Griffins have also lost in double overtime at Fairleigh Dickinson and by three to a Buffalo team that took then-No. 2 Pittsburgh down to the wire, before losing 70-67 on Dec. 9.
"You run the whole gamut of emotions as a coach," Parrotta said. "What I try to do is keep it right down the middle. That's something Tom Pecora at Hofstra taught me. If people come to our practice the day after a game, they can't tell if we won or lost. That's what I'm trying to get across here because it will eat you up if you let it.
"We want to keep things in perspective because we are in the infancy stages of building things. Little by little, we are setting a foundation. That's what you have to do when you come into a situation where there's a lot of work to be done."