Cassadaga Valley Central School 50th Anniversary book

Mr. Joseph Annarella

Joe Annarella will be remembered as a demanding coach yet one who was caring and sensitive to his players. He demanded top performance and, at the same time, earned respect and confidence.

From a girl’s point of view (such as this tribute), Joe Annarella was a man for whom we wanted to do well. He instilled in his girls’ teams a desire and confidence to succeed.

When girls’ basketball made its debut in 1974, Mr. Annarella, with the help of Al Mayott, was the only teacher to accept the coaching responsibility. This was not a coveted job as most coaches who have worked with girls well know. We must admit; girls are more temperamental than their boy counterparts and also tend to be weak, and to even forget the most basic fundamentals. They also need to be coached or coaxed to become “good” at any given sport. Maybe Joe thought of this but it didn’t deter his decision to become Cassadaga Valley’s first girls’ basketball coach. He and Mr. Mayott did a fantastic job.

Except for Cougarettes and volleyball, this was the first time our girls had been involved in an organized competitive sport. There were no junior high teams; let alone camps and clinics prior to this. Needless to say, try-outs were chaotic; the Junior Varsity and Varsity tried out together in half a gym at the Sinclairville Elementary School. How Joe ever survived those first days of try-outs we’ll never know. We are just glad he saw some potential and stayed with us.

Outfitted in jean cut-offs and white T-shirts as uniforms, the girls lost their first four games. The positive attitude Joe displayed, despite those losses, was incentive enough to win several games during the last half of the season. The girls’ program was on its way to success.

We remember certain episodes that probably made him think, “Why am I here?”. Try to imagine his surprise when a girl clapped as the other team scored. Right then he realized these girls were a bit different from the boys he had coached. We understand how he felt when one of his players brushed her teeth during time-outs because she liked clean teeth when she played. He finally asked the manager for the glass, toothpaste, and brush and whipped them under the bleachers.

I remember him as a humorous man who could tease a pouting over-sensitive girl back to her senses. He didn’t yell much but he had a way of “psyching us up” so we could perform better. He had a way of lightening up our strifes and a way of bringing a team together. He had a way of overlooking the “cheerleading” practices during basketball practice.

He was exact with his plays; making sure they worked well and were not too complicated. He drilled us until we could undertake new plays with perfection. We were prepared for each team we faced, learning special defenses or different offenses for that particular team. For example, when we played Randolph, he made us practice with the gym lights off so we could adjust quickly to the dim lighting in the Randolph gym.

Two years after he had started, he and Mr. Mayott coached a third year basketball team to an undefeated season. He was very proud of this team, always having pictures taken, which he enjoyed as much as the girls. He was very much involved with the program and once offered to bus our parents to playoff games in school buses. He liked the crowds and the new interest in this sport. He liked to win and one time allowed the score to get as high as 96 points.

The year Joe Annarella died was the year he earned his 100th win in football. This was an accomplishment of which he was quite proud. This was also the year he decided to “go ahead and order new uniforms” for his girls’ team. After all, they had come a long way since cut-off jeans and T-shirts. By this time (1976), there was even a separate girls’ junior varsity basketball team. He never lived to see the uniforms on us; but they arrived, unexpected to the rest of the school personnel, despite our warnings that he had ordered them. We had black bands sewed on each uniform in remembrance of Joe even though he would have been thought of often without them.

For all of us whose lives he touched, we say, “Thank you.” Thank you for showing us a positive attitude, determination, and kindness. Thank you for taking a chance on us and for making the sport of basketball memorable.

Since the death of Joe Annarella, the school has dedicated a trophy case and football field in his honor. The trophy case is found opposite the main door to the new gym with a display of all the teams Mr. Annarella led to championships. There is also a Joe Annarella Memorial Trophy which is awarded to a football player each year.

The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.