Polechetti builds winning program with experience
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article on Dave Polechetti appeared in The Post-Journal on March 19, 1994. Polechetti, a decorated basketball and softball coach at Fredonia Central School for two decades, will join 10 other inductees at the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame’s 36th annual banquet, which will be held Monday, Feb. 20 at the Lakewood Rod & Gun Club. Joining him in the Class of 2017 are Paul Cooley, Jake Ensign, Charlie LaDuca, Sammy LaMancuso, Deb Palmer, Bob Patterson, Sam Restivo, Michael Sayers, Maceo Wofford and the late Francis “Doc” Malinoski. Tickets for the induction dinner are $50. Banquet reservations can be made by calling chairman Chip Johnson at 485-6991.
Dave Polechetti’s resume as a basketball player on an organized team can be summarized in one line: Dunkirk High School junior varsity, 1965-66.
But whatever shortcomings he had as a player — he was admittedly too small in high school — Polechetti has more than made up for as a coach.
In fact, in terms of wins and losses, the 44-year-old has amassed some outstanding numbers in his seven years as the Fredonia Hillbillies varsity coach.
Entering today’s New York State public High School Athletic Association Class B semifinal against Central Square at the Glens Falls Civic Center, Fredonia, under Polechetti’s direction, has excelled.
The Hillbillies’ more notable accomplishments during Polechetti’s tenure include:
* Posting a 112-46 record since the 1987-88 season.
* Winning a Class B state qualifier and a Far West Regional title this season.
* Appearing in four Section VI Class B2 championship games, winning two.
* Claiming four Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 1 titles, including the last three in a row.
* Advancing as far as the Section VI Class B2 semifinals six straight years.
“If you look at our record, you have to consider us with some of the other (top) schools,” Polechetti said. “But you don’t win without good players and we’ve had our share. The kids have had good work ethics. This team is typical of that.”
Led by seniors Mike Heary, Mike Haight, Ryan LaMattina and Chris Kubacki, the Hillbillies are 20-6 and can break the school record for wins in a season today with a victory over Central Square of Section III.
Amazingly, over the last three seasons, this group is 59-14.
“The seniors were all a part of winning a sectional championship (in 1992 over Williamsville South) and losing a sectional championship (in 1993 to Lackawanna),” Heary said. “This year we kind of learned from the last two years. (Polechetti) has instilled something in us to really try and go far, if we can.”
The Hillbillies breezed through their first three sectional games this season before hooking up with rival Lackawanna in the championship showdown at the Niagara Falls Convention Center. Trailing by 10 points with 4:47 remaining, Fredonia lost Heary — their leading scorer — with his fifth and disqualifying foul.
The game appeared over.
But Polechetti didn’t panic. He kept the Hillbillies in a half-court trap, which befuddled the Steelers, and Fredonia came away with a 74-71 win over the defending champions.
Polechetti also pushed the right buttons in the Far West Regional when he moved Heary, who had just six points through three quarters, from the block to the perimeter. In the last 11 minutes, he scored 20 points, lifting the Hillbillies to a 78-73 win.
“We’re really responding to what he’s been able to teach us in preparing for these games,” Heary said. “He’s made some good on-court decisions. Some of the things other teams have done we didn’t expect, but he’s come up with the adjustments during games and at halftime that really made us win.”
But how does a guy who didn’t play more than a year of jayvee basketball post those kinds of numbers?
“He’s a great listener,” said John Bongiovanni, Fredonia’s junior varsity coach. “I think he makes the adjustments when the opportunity arises. He sees the floor, he has the experience and he knows in close games what certain teams will do. … The key to anything is to try and find as much information as you can and implement as much as you can to make it successful.”
Polechetti has also paid his dues. He coached the Ss. Peter & Paul ninth-grade team in Jamestown for two years and the Fredonia Central School junior varsity for six years; was an assistant with the Fredonia State women’s team for two seasons; and, finally, took over the Hillbillies’ varsity program before the 1987-88 season.
Along the way, Polechetti learned the finer parts of coaching from watching the likes of Al Stuhlmiller, Mike Tramuta, Roger Moore and Tony Principe. And, of course, he’s teamed with Bongiovanni to put together one of the area’s best programs.
“I’m sure you don’t need to be a great player,” Polechetti said. “I’ve played enough sandlot and recreation ball and watched enough to understand the game.
“Everybody can learn the Xs and Os, and if you do it long enough you get a feel for the game.”
One thing that Polechetti firmly believes in is scheduling strong non-league opponents. This season the Hillbillies played St. Joe’s, Rochester East, McQuaid and Jamestown twice.
“I learned it in softball,” said Polechetti, who coached the Fredonia girls for … years. “The first year I took over (1980), we won the sectionals. We had decent years (subsequently), but we couldn’t get back to the sectionals and I thought, ‘Geez, what are we doing wrong?’ I decided we had to try and schedule those (strong non-league) teams.”
Banquet tickets may be purchased at the Jamestown Cycle Shop, 10 Harrison St., Jamestown; Matt’s News, 93 E. Third St., Dunkirk; and the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame, 15 W. Third St. in Jamestown. Tickets, priced at $50, can also be ordered by calling banquet chairman Chip Johnson at 485-6991. CSHOF members receive a $5 discount. Hospitality begins at 5 p.m. with dinner to follow at 6:15 p.m.
* Graduate of Dunkirk High School, Jamestown Community College & SUNY Fredonia.
* Basketball coach at Fredonia High for 21 years; posted a 281-180 record; and won six league, two Section VI and one Far West Regional title.
* 1992 Post-Journal Basketball Coach of the Year.
* Softball coach at Fredonia High School for 20 years; posted a 286-116 record; and won seven league, five Section VI and three Far West Regional titles.
* 2007 Post-Journal softball Coach of the Year.
* Served on Section VI basketball committee from 1988-2011 and on Section VI softball committee from 1988-94.