By Keith Harrington
EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer has been a part of Section II athletics for more than 40 years as a team manager, player, coach, broadcaster and sportswriter.
For more than five decades he has had the honor of observing the area’s most successful high school coaches. This week he is recognizing a group of the most successful male coaches in our little portion of Section II. Narrowing down to a Top 5 seemed like an impossible task at times, he said, because so many of them have been outstanding.
The criteria used to try to provide a little separation between these iconic coaches included wins, championships, longevity, recognition, and special honors. Remember, all of these coaches are worthy of recognition, however you may wish to rank them.
Here are the top 5:
- Rich McCabe-Fort Ann
Rich McCabe has built from scratch one of the most successful high school programs, not only in the Adirondack League, but in Section II and New York State. His Fort Ann Cardinal boys soccer teams have won 598 games and sport a winning percentage of over .750.
The Cardinal soccer program owns the second-longest winning streak in the history of NYSPHSAA boys soccer of 44 games that lasted through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Fort Ann also posted a 64-game unbeaten streak from 2014 to 2016.
Under McCabe, the Cardinals have garnered 17 Section II championships including 10 in a row. Fort Ann has 20 Adirondack League titles and counting.
In 2015 McCabe’s team won their first New York State Class D championship after being the runner-up in 2012 and 2016.
McCabe is a member of the New York State Soccer Coaches Hall of Fame.
McCabe also coached Fort Ann to a Section II and regional championship in boys’ basketball in 1984.
- George Khoury-Warrensburg
George Khoury coached at Warrensburg High School for 37 years. Khoury’s basketball teams compiled an astonishing 518-237 record during his tenure. Khoury began coaching at Warrensburg in 1947 when his team registered a 21-3 record for the season.
Khoury’s team recorded four 20-win seasons and 12 seasons of 18 wins or more; Khoury only had five losing seasons in his career.
Coach Khoury and his Burghers won 13 Adirondack League basketball championships and claimed four Section II titles.
In 1983 Khoury’s basketball team recorded win 515. At the time it set a New York state record for boys basketball. It surpassed the previous mark of 514 set by Amherst’s Bob Hettler. Khoury still ranks among the winningest coaches in New York State history.
Khoury also led the Warrensburg football team to 143 wins and baseball team to 449 wins, totaling 1,110 victories in a Hall of Fame career.
- Anthony “Tony” Luciano – Hudson Falls
After attending Seton Hall, graduating from Colgate University where he rewrote the track and field record books, and completing his graduate degree at Springfield College, Anthony “Tony” Luciano began his teaching and coaching career in the Hudson Falls School District. Since 1948, his first and only teaching assignment for 35 years was in Hudson Falls schools.
While there, Luciano coached the Tigers in varsity football, basketball, track and cross-country. Luciano’s basketball teams amassed 335 wins in 25 years. The Tigers won seven Northern Conference titles.
His track squads compiled a grand total of 221 dual meet wins in 34 years with 15 Northern Conference Dual Meet championships and nine Northern Conference Invitational championships.
Luciano’s accolades include Honorary 20 and 30 year awards from state Coaches Association, recipient of first annual NYS Athletic Administrators Award for Section II, induction in Glens Falls Civic Center Heritage Hall of Fame in 1983, New York State Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988, Capital District Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011 and the NYSPHSAA Hall of Fame in 2012.
Luciano played an instrumental role in Section II basketball as a committee member beginning in 1955.
- Sam Eppolito-Granville
Sam Eppolito was the beloved coach of the Granville Golden Horde football team from 1926-1956. The Granville football field is named Sam Eppolito Field in honor of the iconic coach.
Eppolito coached six undefeated teams with two perfect seasons, in 1930 and 1933
From 1929 through 1934, the Golden Horde led by Eppolito lost only three games – to Mineville in 1929 and 1931 and to rival Whitehall in 1931. Granville was also tied three times. Within that time span, the Golden Horde won league titles every year but 1931, outscored the opposition 1,272-134, and posted a 49-3-3 record overall.
Eppolito’s Golden Horde teams were outright Northern Conference champions 11 times. Granville won the league in 1929, 1930, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1936, 1937, 1943, 1946, 1948 and 1949. Granville was co-champion three times, in 1942, 1944, and 1945.
Eppolito’s 1932-1935 Granville teams compiled a 28-game win streak. From 1928 to 1934 the Golden Horde did not drop a single game at home.
The 1930 Hall of Fame squad under Eppolito went 9-0, won the Northern Conference title and outscored opponents 227-0.
The 1933 Hall of Fame Granville team went 7-0, won the Northern Conference title and outscored opponents 191-0.
In August of 2018 Eppolito was inducted into the ninth class of the Capital Region Football Hall of Fame.
- John Millett-Whitehall
“Five yards and a cloud of dust.” That is the best way to describe the run-oriented offense of Whitehall’s John Millett during his football coaching career at Whitehall. The unbalanced line that the Railroaders used under Millett earned the legendary mentor 195 career wins with 187 coming with Whitehall where he coached for 35seasons.
During his tenure as head coach, Millett’s teams compiled 12 league championships, one conference championship, three Section II championships, and finished second in Section II four times. The Railroaders were also a regional runner-up once.
Millett’s Whitehall football teams won more than 60 percent of their games, including three undefeated seasons. and his 195 wins is still among the most in Section II history.
Millett coached sports other than football at Whitehall. Track and field teams with Millett at the helm won six Section II titles. He also won a league championship with both the girls basketball and softball teams. Millett coached the semi-pro Glens Falls Greenjackets to a pair of division titles, a team for which he played during the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1998 Millett was inducted into the Glens Falls Greenjackets Hall of Fame. He is also in the Whitehall Athletic Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Capital Region Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
In the Conversation: Ambrose Gilligan (Whitehall) Clint Taft (Whitehall) Ken Burch (Granville) Mike Macura (Granville) John Traver (Greenwich) Doug Luke (Cambridge) Ken Baker (Cambridge-Hoosick Falls) Tom Heinzelman (Hudson Falls) Marty Sherman (Corinth) Tom Rentz (Corinth) Jack Kimball (Lake George) Blake White (Lake George) Dave Jones (Lake George) Jack Barber (Salem) Charlie Perry( (Salem) Pete Purcelli (multiple schools) Mike Cronin (Argyle) Jack Sherwin (Argyle) Pete Dunigan (Salem) Jack Barber (Salem) Charlie Perry (Salem) Greg McGuirk (Greenwich) John Irion (Queensbury, Granville)