Ammirante elected to state hoop HOF

Gene Ammirante’s resume as Bellaire basketball coach speaks for itself.

The accomplishments are simply off the chart.

Whether it’s his 471 victories, six regional trips or his 2004 trip to the Division III state tournament, Ammirante has had a hall of fame career.

The Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association agrees.

Ammirante was informed this past week that he’ll be formally inducted to the OHSBCA Hall of Fame on April 27 during a ceremony in Columbus.

“When I got the call, it immediately brought back so many memories,” Ammirante said. “To go into the Ohio High School Hall of Fame is very humbling and a great honor.”

Ammirante came to Bellaire in 1976, just seven years out of high school, and worked under Mark Matz, for whom he took over.

“I remember I went to my first state tournament in 1976 and I am up there watching all these guys who are in this hall of fame and it’s the same thing here,” Ammirante said. “When I first started coaching, I’d go listen to every word Dick Potts, Henry Lasasz, Earl Habberfield or Charlie Huggins would say. It all comes back to you.”

Similar to 2012 when he learned that he’d been chosen for induction to the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Hall of Fame, Ammirante immediately began thinking about the players he coached during his 30-year run as the Big Reds’ hoop mentor.

“These types of awards are a testament to all of the great players we’ve had through those years,” Ammirante said. “I always say, ‘when coaches get into hall of fames, it’s the players who put them there. But, when players get into hall of fames, they get in on their own.’ I am very proud of this for the kids that I coached. It’s more their honor than mine.”

En route to racking up 189 victories during the 1990s, Ammirante and the Big Reds’ program was clicking on all cylinders. And he means on all levels, too.

“We had a real good setup there for a while,” Ammirante said. “The whole family was ticking. From the principal, to the assistant principal, to the A.D., we were all pulling the rope in the same direction and it showed.”

To have the consistency that Ammirante built, it also took a coach who will willing, and able, to adapt his style to the players he had to work with. There were seasons when the Big Reds would attempt to make 10 or so passes a possession and during the latter years of his career, the Big Reds were looking to run on every possession.

“It was like sending my kids to a dance,” Ammirante said. “I wanted my son to look nice. I didn’t want him in an old suit or old shoes. I wanted to put them in the best scenario that I could, so they could achieve success. Same with my teams because some of those teams wouldn’t have achieved success running up and down the court.”

Success was achieved frequently for the Big Reds, who won 14 OVAC championships and played in 14 district tournaments. Ammirante’s 1993-94 and 2005-06 teams finished the regular season with spotless 20-0 records.

Prior to the hall of fames, Ammirante’s work didn’t go unnoticed. He was named Division II State, Eastern District and District 12 Coach of the Year during his career. He was the OVAC Coach of the Year in 2004. He coached the Ohio North-South All-Star Game in 1997.

“We always had players who were committed,” Ammirante said. “We might not have always had a bunch of great basketball players, but they were athletes who were committed and willing to do whatever was needed. They put on the suit that made them look the best to go to the dance.”

While many would suspect the on-court success or the accolades mean the most to Ammirante, it was actually the ability to coach his son, Jerry, and nephew, J.R., who has since taken over the reins of the program.

“When I think of my career I think of coaching my son and nephew and then having both of them help me coach,” Ammirante said. “The other thing that comes to mind are the guys who would do anything you asked of them because they were committed, even if that meant not shooting or making 30 passes. Those are the things I’ll most remember about my coaching career.”

Ammirante has also been heavily involved with the OVAC All-Star Basketball Classic and still serves on the committee.

Gene and his wife, Pam have two adult children, Jerry and Lindsay. They also have one grandson, Milano.