Weekly Feature

2018-03-07 / Sports

Simon steps down from St. Joe’s hoops position after 18 years


Mark Simon has been involved in high school basketball in some fashion every season for the past 44 years. But next year will be different. The longtime St. Joe’s coach announced last week that he’s stepping down after 18 years with the team.

“When I started thinking about it, I was like ‘wow, I’ve had 44 straight years of basketball,’” Simon said. “It’s been almost all my life. I was just more amazed than anything else. That was one of the thought processes, that I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve never had a Thanksgiving or a Christmas where I didn’t have to do something with basketball. It will be a little different for sure.”

Simon’s high school basketball days go back to the early 1970s when he was at Kenmore Junior High. He then played for three years at Kenmore West High School and got into coaching immediately after that. He began officiating soon after that while continuing to coach for more than 20 years. His career reached a high point in 2001, when he was hired by St. Joe’s.

The success started almost right away, as the team won the Manhattan Cup in 2002. They were the runner-up the following season, but came back strong in 2004 to win both the Manhattan Cup and the CHSAA State Championship. They were runners-up again the following season, but again came back strong.

The 2005-2006 team was among the best in program history. They again won the Manhattan Cup and Catholic state title. After winning their first game of the year in the Lockport Tournament, they lost to Niagara Falls in a game that was strangely played in front of no fans after some trouble outside the school the night before caused the powers-that-be to ban spectators.

“There had been some trouble the night before and we ended up playing the game in front of no spectators,” Simon said. “We ended up losing. Falls beat us bad.”

The team then won 26 in a row. They beat Niagara Falls in a rematch, they went undefeated in league play, they got all the way to the Federation Tournament in Glens Falls.

“The 2005-2006 team was amazing,” Simon said. “That was a memorable year and a memorable team. I think we beat Canisius four times that year. We did everything. We played Niagara Falls again in the middle of that run and we beat them when they had Paul Harris. It was just amazing.”

The team won one more Manhattan Cup in 2008, but has won just one league title since then.

After nearly a half-century in high school basketball, Simon isn’t sure yet what he’ll be doing next year. He’s still figuring things out at the moment. But he was grateful that he was able to coach as long as he did at St. Joe’s.

“Right now, I’m just going a day at a time, I’m just enjoying some sunshine down in Florida right now. We’re just going to go one day at a time and see what life brings,” Simon said. “I was blessed to be at St. Joe’s. I thank everyone for the opportunity to lead the ship. The support has been great. Nothing lasts forever; things change. I hope they get a great leader in their next coach to get them back to the promised land.”

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