Amsterdam's Derrico inducted into Hall

LATHAM -- Frank Derrico wasn't in the mood to talk about each of his 120 victories in 17 years as a high school football coach in Amsterdam, the 1995 New York State championship team, or the honor of being the only inducted coach in the room who went on to coach at the collegiate level.

Derrico was at Michael's Banquet House on Saturday evening with the desire to tell stories -- the life lessons he learned that helped him reach Section II immortality with his induction into the Capital Region Football Hall of Fame.

"It's always an honor to be recognized," Derrico said following his eight-minute induction speech. "Lot of times when kids call me, they don't talk about records or touchdowns. They want to know what I'm doing now. My philosophy was to win games in a teaching atmosphere. Hopefully, the teaching was as important as the winning."

Derrico's contingent, scattered around the ballroom, resembled the makeup of the city of Amsterdam and his football teams. It was a diverse group that came from all walks of life with current and former coaches, former players, high-ranking military personnel, business leaders and close friends all there wanting to give something back to a man who gave them so much of his time and energy. Also in attendance was Derrico's family, including his two sons, Jeff and Brett, who cut short their North Carolina vacation to be present for his overdue entrance into the Hall.

"It's so important for my family to be here because they had to sacrifice so much," said Derrico, who was an eight-time winner of the Section II Coach of the Year award.

Derrico becomes the first area coach to be inducted into the Hall. Fonda-Fultonville's Alex Mancini was inducted as a player in 2012 and Amsterdam's Justice Smith and Josh Beekman were inducted as players in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

I never got a chance to cover Derrico in Amsterdam on Friday nights and didn't get to know him until he accepted an offer from University at Albany head coach Bob Ford to take over the program's offensive coordinator position in 1996.

So I will take a step aside here and let the people who know Derrico best talk about his character both on and off the football field, an incredible work ethic, and of course his intense desire to win on the gridiron.

"I wouldn't have missed this for the world," said Navy Commander David Mendez, who flew in from Washington D.C. after attending the two-day Korean and Cold War Conference "Besides my father, he's the biggest male figure in my life. If it wasn't for Frank and Amsterdam football, I would have never have made it as far as I have in the military."

Mendez, a member of the 1986 and 1987 Amsterdam teams and current director of the POW-MIA group, was present with his son Gabriel, an incoming senior on this year's Amsterdam football squad.

"I learn so much from what my Dad tells me and he got all that knowledge from coach Derrico," said young Gabriel.

Derrico's mentoring skills left a lasting impact on three others in attendance -- former Amsterdam head coach Pat Liverio, former Amsterdam offensive coordinator Bob Noto and current Cobleskill-Richmondville head coach Kevin Billington.

"All Frank wanted to do was win," said Liverio who with 130 coaching wins in just 16 seasons is almost assured of entrance into the Hall himself in the near future. "It was all about winning. His demeanor, his work ethic all led to winning. Then he was a mentor, taught everybody how to run a program and what it took to be successful. He cared for his staff, cared for his players, loved Amsterdam football. Just loved it. He has a deep down love for the program, the school, the city. Truly cared about all those things."

Noto was another recipient of Derrico's teachings.

"Frank is a guy who taught me what it took to be a good coach," Noto said. "The time I had to put in, the work that I had to put in. It's something I've never forgotten."

And Billington?

"Frank is just one of those guys no matter what he talks about, whether it was X's and O's or life in general, he had a way to suck you in," Billington said.

Some of his friends present included 1st Ward Supervisor Vito "Butch" Greco.

"We're here to help Frank celebrate and make sure he's got a lot of support from his friends," Greco said. "He did great job in his coaching career. We are very proud of him He's a fantastic individual."

Derrico was being honored because of his ability to win football games. About 10 miles to the west in Schenectady, another former coach obsessed with winning, Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame basketball coach and current Miami Heat team president Pat Riley was celebrating his 50th high school reunion inside a gym named after him. Riley won 1,210 games in the NBA as a coach.

"Pat Riley, who I played against, said it best," stated Derrico. "He said there are two things -- there is winning and there is misery. Believe me, winning is important. The lower levels is about participation. At a higher level, you can't underestimate winning.

But with wins came a price. Derrico became engulfed with life as a winner that preparation for the following week began just a little more than 12 hours after a Friday night victory.

"My biggest regret is not smelling the roses," Derrico said. "Coach (Bob) Ford would say wins are precious. You really need to enjoy the wins. I never did that at Amsterdam. I win a game on Friday night, wake up Saturday morning, felt like a king, and by Saturday at noon I didn't want to hear about it. It was onto the next game. Tonight gave me another chance to smell the roses and believe me, I've enjoyed every minute of it."