Saying he felt empowered after attending a conference last week in Portland, Ore., Saunders High School basketball coach Anthony Nicodemo revealed to his players Monday that he is gay.
Nicodemo, 35, of Yonkers, has coached the Blue Devils for five seasons and came out during a team meeting to open summer workouts.
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"Essentially, I told them there are going to be some media stories that are going to drop in the next couple of weeks about me being a gay high school basketball coach," Nicodemo told MSG Varsity.
Nicodemo is believed to be among the first openly gay high school boys basketball coaches in New York.
He said he decided to come out after attending Nike's Be True summit. Openly gay current and former athletes -- including Jason Collins (NBA), Wade Davis (NFL) and Billy Bean (MLB) -- spoke at the event.
"I left there with this empowering feeling that I've helped my (players) my entire life," Nicodemo said Monday night while addressing the team. "Why not continue to do this in another way?
"I didn't have much fear when I decided to do this. My fear was meeting with my team. I told you guys to be yourself and be true and get out there and always be honest with yourself. The only person you can't con is yourself, but I've been trying to con myself for a long time."
Nicodemo is an influential coach in Section 1 basketball. He sits on the league's tournament committee and is president of the Lower Hudson Basketball Coaches Association. He coached the Blue Devils to 10-9 last season and has made the Class A playoffs every year since taking over.
He's also coached Section 1 hoops at North Salem, Croton-Harmon, Briarcliff, Dover and New Rochelle. Nicodemo said the response to coming out has been positive so far.
"Right after he told us, I spoke to my team," Saunders basketball player Joe Nolan said after practice. "But at the end of the day, I was just like, 'We've got to get in the gym and work on our game. We can't worry about what people are going to say to us and what people are going to think.' "
Nolan's mother, Donna, added that Nicodemo has "been with us for all these years. He's a great guy. He's a great coach. He's like a father, a brother all in one to these kids. What he does outside of school is his business."
Nicodemo taught social studies at the Reach Academy, a school for autistic children in West Harrison. He informed academy administrators in the Greenburgh-North Castle school district about his decision to come out last week. He later told officials at the Yonkers school district.
"The Yonkers Public Schools is an equal opportunity employer that supports diversity among its staff and students," Superintendent Bernard Pierorazio said in a statement.