Agostino brothers coaching at four Suffolk schools
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While Super Bowl XLVII, featuring the rare Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh matchup, played out on the flat screen upstairs, downstairs in the den, it was just another Sunday in Centereach: Agostino vs. Agostino . . . vs. Agostino vs. Agostino.
The wisecracks flew back and forth among four competitive but loving brothers who coach varsity basketball simultaneously in the same county, two in the same league and the other two in the same classification, with all four making this year's playoffs.
"An amazing accomplishment," said Jack Agostino, who hosted the Super Bowl Sunday bash. "You couldn't imagine this when we were growing up. The biggest reason we're all coaches is that we weren't that good as players."
Jack, 50, is by far the most accomplished. He is in his 26th season at Amityville, has won 451 games and is one of only three coaches in New York history to win four consecutive state titles. His team is the top seed in Suffolk Class A this season.
Chris, 42, is in his 10th season at Harborfields, has 133 victories and guided the Tornadoes to the first state championship in any sport in school history last season. His team is the No. 2 seed in Class A this season, which puts Jack and Chris on a collision course to meet in the county final for a third straight year. Chris won the last two, which still stings Jack.
"When two years in a row you lose and you think you were just as good and you didn't get the calls . . . It takes me a little while to get over it," Jack said.
Mike, the youngest at 38 and in his first varsity season at Smithtown West, acknowledged, "It definitely gets stressful for everyone when Chris and Jack play because there's so much on the line. I think Jack doesn't get over the loss as quickly, but he does get over the brother thing quickly."
Mike entered the playoffs as the No. 6 seed and was in the same half of the Class AA bracket as Anthony, whose No. 10 Newfield squad was eliminated by Half Hollow Hills West on Friday. Anthony, 48, is in his 14th season coaching the Wolverines and has 143 wins. Mike defeated Anthony twice in the regular season, but he noted that those games weren't as tense as the anticipated Jack vs. Chris showdown.
"I know it sounds boring, but it's really just about my team. The extra motivation is not there," Mike said. "I want Anthony to win every single game except when we play."
That attitude permeates the brotherhood. "If I lose, I'm going to watch them play in the playoffs," Chris said. "I'm not going to hide. I've got to support my brothers. They supported me. The last couple of years, they were at every game that mattered."
In fact, it was Mike's spot-on scouting report that helped Chris knock off previously unbeaten Tappan Zee in the state final in Glens Falls last March. "Mike told me, 'I got this,' and everything he said was right," Chris said of the hotel chalk talk.
Asked to give a scouting report on the four brothers, elder statesman Jack said, "I'm old- school. Pound the ball inside and play good defense. Building relationships is a big part of it, too."
Jack praised Chris for "his passion. He thinks his team is ready to play the Knicks. That's how passionate he is about his team. That's a great quality that rubs off on the kids . . . Anthony is all about commitment. It's easy to be an Amityville coach. It's hard to be the coach at Newfield. He doesn't have the tradition or the talent. I was more successful because I had better players. But Anthony put in the time and now he's reaping the benefits. He's got some young talent and he's going to get on a nice roll. Same thing with Chris. He built up a program that people didn't respect."
All agree that Mike, the only one who played college basketball, was the best player among the four and is the master of X's- and-O's. "A true student of the game," Jack said. "He learned a lot of stuff and he taught it to us. None of us had that background. None of us worked with college coaches."
So how did all four Agostinos wind up as basketball coaches, especially given that only Mike was a basketball-first kid?
"It doesn't surprise me," Anthony said. "We followed each other our whole lives and we all followed Jack into coaching and teaching. He was the role model. He and I hung out and we took Chris and Mike along."
Tony, 71, the patriarch of Long Island's first family of hoops, had no explanation for the coaching fraternity he produced.
"I don't know how it happened. I'm a truck driver," Tony said. "My wife [Ann] and I have been trying to figure it out for years. She won't go to the games. She gets too nervous, especially when they're playing each other. It's rough when they go against each other. But whichever one wins, they're still brothers tomorrow."
And every tomorrow brings another opportunity for the four families to get together. "This isn't just today. This is every week," said Anthony, pointing across the paneled playroom in Jack's home, where 17 children, from newborn to teenager, joined in the fun and frolic on Super Bowl Sunday. "We're never going to be millionaires, but I know people who are envious of what we have. This you can't make up."