It was supposed to be a "one-year thing" for Pete Cerrone. He was a football coach, and a guy who hadn't played much basketball beyond youth league, but Farmingdale needed him to fill in temporarily as its girls basketball coach in 1981.
Time sure flies, huh? And Friday night, that unexpected career turned historic. Cerrone became the first Nassau girls basketball coach to reach 500 wins as Farmingdale beat Freeport, 51-43, in Conference AA-I.
"I've been fortunate to have good players over the years, and it means I'm getting old," Cerrone, 56, said with a chuckle. Two of his three children were in attendance at Freeport High School. "It's something I'm proud of and it's an honor to be up there. I'm amazed by the longevity. It wasn't exactly my intention to be around this long."
The best laid plans of high school coaches . . .
Cerrone has a 500-161 record, which includes 17 conference titles, five county and two Long Island championships.
He hadn't told his players about the benchmark, "but last week I was interviewed," senior Nadine Hadnagy said, "and a reporter told me Coach was getting close."
Hadnagy provided the final nudge with 25 points and eight steals for the Dalers (12-2, 7-2). With her team down 34-33 after the third quarter, she scored 11 points to spark a fourth-quarter rally. Alexis Panariello added 15 points and six assists, and Courtney Irby had six points.
Aysha Harris and AJ Smith each scored 11 points for Freeport (9-6, 5-5).
“It’s not something I was thinking about much leading up to it,” Cerrone said. “I knew how many I had going into the season, and I thought if our team played the way we’re capable of, it was gonna happen... This win was for everyone who has played for me since that first season.”
There wasn’t much pomp and circumstance last night – in not wanting to “disrespect” the opponent, Cerrone said – but Farmingdale will hold a ceremony during an upcoming home game to celebrate the achievement.
"It's really cool to be part of this and I'm excited for him," Hadnagy said. "Being the first to do something is special. He's a great coach and he deserves this."