When Steve Giacolone reminisces about his past 30 years coaching high school sports, he regales you with stories of players, teams and moments.
He appreciates the high points and the low points, and he remembers what he learned from each. Perhaps that’s a reason he stands alone in the Long Island coaching record books.
When his Eastport-South Manor girls basketball team beat East Islip, 46-29, on Thursday, he became the first coach in Long Island history to amass at least 300 wins in two sports, according to Newsday records. He won 306 games as a softball coach.
“It’s very difficult to put into perspective,” said Giacolone, who was presented a basketball emblazoned with “300” and the names of the girls on his current team in a postgame ceremony. “It’s almost numbing. Honestly, when I think about the years, I go back to my wife. In order to endure all these seasons in all different sports, you have to have the support.”
The win clinched a Suffolk IV playoff berth, meaning his ESM basketball teams have made the playoffs in 20 of his 27 years since he started in 1990.
“He’s just a great coach,” sophomore Casey Travers said. “He’s good at getting us motivated, and when we get down on ourselves, he encourages us.”
Giacolone, ESM’s dean of students, graduated from Brentwood High School in 1980 and studied accounting at Hofstra before working in business. When the company he worked for was bought out, he switched careers and became a teacher and coach.
He coached Brentwood softball from 1987-95. At ESM, he coached softball from 1996-2010, with the exception of 2006. His ESM softball teams won four county titles and two Long Island championships.
He stopped coaching softball in 2010 because his daughter Samantha had played varsity lacrosse as a seventh-grader that year and Giacolone wanted to watch her from the stands. But that didn’t last long.
“We talked about him being involved with coaching our goalies and defense because basketball defense is somewhat similar to lacrosse,” ESM girls lacrosse coach Becky Thorn said. “He won a Long Island championship in softball and then came and helped us win a state title in lacrosse.”
Giacolone said that’s his favorite coaching memory. Out of all the wins credited to his name, he fondly recalls the state title he captured in 2015 as an assistant. His daughter, now a goalie at Notre Dame, was a senior at the time. Winning a state crown with her is something he’ll never forget.
“It was an amazing thrill, and knowing the state championship was her last game made it even better,” he said. “They’d always been on the cusp. Watching them progress and win a state title and then walking off the field together with my daughter was fulfilling.”
Giacolone stopped coaching girls lacrosse after that game and now focuses on his girls basketball team. ESM isn’t known as a basketball powerhouse, but Giacolone has become an expert at getting the most from his athletes.
“To do what he’s done for so long, the inner drive is incredible,” said ESM athletic director Bill Madsen, who coached softball with Giacolone at Brentwood in 1995. “I think he just enjoys the process. He never talks about beating teams or winning championships. He always talks about the process of getting better.”
And he still enjoys that process. Giacolone has hopes of leading his young team through the Suffolk Class AA playoffs and plans on coaching girls basketball beyond this season.
A man already filled with stories surely will have more to tell.