For former Amityville High School boys basketball coach Jack Agostino, life begins at 55.
“I’m a hungry coach,” said Agostino, who in July accepted a position as the associate coach at Division I North Carolina A&T, where one of his former Amityville players, Jay Joyner, is the head coach. “And that’s a scary quality for me getting into the business again. I’ve watched so much basketball the last three years. I wasn’t coaching but I was still around basketball. I missed coaching, and Jay knew it and he knew I wasn’t coaching at Amityville.”
Agostino resigned as Amityville basketball coach after the 2013-14 season and retired from teaching last year. He had won 473 games, including four consecutive state titles, nine Long Island championships, 11 Suffolk crowns and two state Federation championships. But coaching was still in his blood.
So when Joyner called last year, Agostino was ready to jump. Almost. “I wanted to wait until my son Jon graduated from [Centereach] high school,” Agostino said. “North Carolina A&T will benefit from that hunger and I am so thankful to Coach Joyner for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Joyner, who struggled through a 22-game losing streak and a 3-29 record at NCA&T last season, his first, said of hiring his old coach, “Basketball is basketball and there are not too many people who know more about basketball and how to coach young men than coach Agostino. We lost a lot of close games last year. I think having someone with coach’s expertise on the sideline will only benefit us in close games.”
Agostino’s duties include being the team’s offensive and defensive coordinators. He also assists in recruiting. “A big difference is that I’m full-time as a basketball coach. At Amityville, you were coaching but you were also teacher and I was an administrator, too,” Agostino said. “Now, my whole focus, besides my family, is coaching basketball.”
At preseason practices, Agostino has already noticed another difference. “How good every kid is. In high school, you have good players and some really good players. But here, we’ve got top-notch kids 1 through 15,” he said. “Your practices are so much more intense because of the talent level.”
Two former Long Island high school stars are on the current North Carolina A&T roster. Guard Aaren Edmead from Deer Park and forward Femi Olujobi from Brentwood are expected to be starters for a team that plays in the MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference). “It’s all about three games in March. You go on a three-game winning streak in the conference tournament and you’re in the NCAA Tournament,” Agostino said.
He knows all about big-time tournaments. One of his greatest memories from coaching at Amityville was when his team traveled to the prestigious Slam Dunk to the Beach Tournament in Lewes, Delaware, in 2001, featuring 34 teams from 12 states, eight of them ranked in the top 25, and 30 of the nation’s top 100 players. One of them, from St. Vincent-St. Mary of Ohio, ranked No. 3 in the country by USA Today, was a junior sensation named LeBron James.
“It was an amazing performance by LeBron, who had 39 points,” Agostino said. “But it was an amazing performance by [Amityville’s blue-chip Villanova-bound center] Jason Fraser, too. He had 28 points and 18 rebounds.”
Amityville trailed by one point in the final minute when the Ohio team full-court pressed on the inbounds pass. “We got the ball into Jason. He looked up and saw A.J. Price [then a sophomore who would star at Connecticut and play in the NBA] all alone,” Agostino recounted. “Jason snapped it to him and LeBron had to foul him. A.J. made both free throws.”
Trailing 84-83, LeBron missed an open three-pointer at the buzzer. “He got a good look,” Agostino said.
His appetite for more games like that is, once again, whetted.
NC A&T FACTS
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
Basketball coach: Jay Joiner, third season
Long Island connection:
Jay Joyner (coach from Amityville)
Jack Agostino (assistant coach from Amityville)
Aaren Edmead (senior guard from Deer Park)
Femi Olujobi (junior forward from Brentwood)
History: North Carolina A&T, located in Greensboro, was founded in the 1890s as “The Agricultural and Mechanical College for the Colored Race.” The historically black university is now a state school populated by students of all backgrounds.