by Scott Kindberg
April 1, 2015
End Of An Era
One of the most successful high school football coaches in New York State has decided to step down.
Jay Sirianni, the head coach at Southwestern since 2003, submitted his resignation earlier this month. The school board has accepted the resignation, along with those of long-time assistants Kevin Salisbury and Aaron Rounds.
“I’ve been part of Southwestern football since I was born,” said Sirianni by cellphone Tuesday night from Florida where he is vacationing with his family. “I care deeply about the program, the high school and the kids, but people who know me best are not surprised by this. They knew I wasn’t going to be a 30-year coach. It was time to take a little break and step away. My priorities have changed a little bit in the 12 years that I’ve been the coach.
“It’s not an easy decision at all. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time.”
The announcement ends a coaching tenure that puts the Trojans’ football program on the New York State Public High School Athletic Association map. In his dozen seasons at the helm of his alma mater, Sirianni posted a 101-26 record; appeared in eight Section VI championship games, winning four; and directed teams to three state title games, winning two (2008 and 2009).
From 2008-2011, he guided Southwestern to a 48-3 record, including 38 victories in a row.
In 2014, the Trojans advanced to the Section VI Class C title gamer at Ralph Wilson Stadium where they fell to Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake, 37-7, in what turned out to be his final game on the sidelines.
“To me it’s a tremendous loss for the coaching profession,” said Dick Gallagher, editor of Western New York High School Sports. “Look at his success and his leadership in turning around the Southwestern program. He deserves all the recognition he receives.”
Jamestown High School coach Tom Langworthy, who guided the Red Raiders to a state Class AA championship last year, was an assistant coach under Sirianni in 2004 and 2005 and said that experience was invaluable.
“Jay is a tremendous coach and a tremendous teacher, not only in football, but with all the kids. I’m really grateful for the time I spent coaching at Southwestern because I learned a lot about running a program, how to be a head coach and how to treat players with respect. I lot of that comes back to Jay. I really appreciate that.”
Salisbury, who also serves at Southwestern athletic director, said the positions have been posted both internally and externally.
“When we return from spring break, we will be contacting those candidates directly to set up interviews, make a decision and appoint.
“I’m hoping to have someone approved by our last board meeting in April. To be honest, though, it’d provided we can find a candidate who can fill some very big shoes.”
Sirianni, who grew up watching his father, Fran, coach Southwestern from the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s, Salisbury and Rounds made quite a team on the sidelines.
As strange as it may sound, it’s not going to be the wins or losses that I remember, or the big games. It’s the relationships I’ve had with not only with the kids but with Jay and Aaron,” said Salisbury. “Can you ask for better people to coach with or be friends with? They are not only top-notch coaches, but top-notch men. It doesn’t get much better than that. I’ve been blessed.”
Sirianni took over the Southwestern head coaching job from Chris Krantz in 2003 who was responsible for getting the Trojans pointed in the right direction. Armed with that momentum, Sirianni took the program to new heights. In addition to the sectional and state championships, he has coached 41 all-state players, many of whom have gone on to play in college.
“I think Jay has proven to be one of the better coaches in New York State,” Langworthy said. “He took Southwestern from a good program and made it a great program, a program that is recognized across the state. He has done a lot.”
Added Gallagher, “He had all the attributes of a successful coach. Western New York and Section VI are going to miss him big time.”