The Post-Journal

Swanson Cited As One Of Northeast’s Top Coaches

Sherman girls basketball head coach Mel Swanson is no stranger to receiving awards. He has earned plenty of those to go along with 579 varsity wins during his nearly 40 years with the Wildcats.

Mel Swanson
Mel Swanson

But on Wednesday afternoon Swanson added yet another accomplishment to his expansive resume when he was named the 2014 Northeast Sectional Coach of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

While the award serves as an individual acknowledgement of Swanson's success as measured against all other girls basketball coaches in the Northeast region, in his eyes it is also a positive reflection on the efforts of everyone who has helped to make Sherman such a great basketball community.

"I know that it is in my name, but it is really honoring a lot of people in our program," said Swanson, who will be inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame next month.

The NFHS has been recognizing the best high school coaches in all sports since 1982 at the national, state and sectional levels. Coaches are first selected at the state level and are then ranked against their peers regionally, and once more on a nationwide scale.

Regardless of how you look at Swanson's career and who you compare the Sherman coach with, the result is the same: He is in an elite group.

"I knew that I had been selected as the New York state girls basketball coach (by the NFHS) and that was back in late October or November," Swanson recalled. "I got a letter from them yesterday (Wednesday) that confirmed that I was the sectional coach. I was honored. I don't know really what to say. It is a nice honor for all the years of coaching and all the time that I have put in."

After the best coaches from each state are selected by the NFHS they are then narrowed down to a further list of the best from each region. In this case, Swanson has been selected as the best coach out of candidates from Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and, of course, New York.

It is an honor that puts an already great career into perspective.

"When someone says Sherman basketball, you can't say it without saying (Swanson's) name," said Sherman boys varsity coach Cory Emory. "Whether it be on the girls side or the boys side."

While Swanson has become renowned at the state and local level for his success with the Lady Wildcats (who have won six Section 6 championships, three regional titles, made two state finals appearances and one semifinal appearance), his impact on Sherman basketball has been a comprehensive one.

After joining the school in 1977, Swanson spent one year as the head coach of the jayvee boys team before earning the head coaching position for the Lady Wildcats a year later.

Since then his overall coaching record is 1,043-427 between boys and girls varsity and jayvee games, and Swanson has nine seasons with more than 20 wins starting with his first in 1982-83.

"Any success our girls program has had has been because of him at all different levels because he has coached at all different levels," Emory said of Swanson. "Even on the boys side there were a couple years when he coached while doing the girls also."

It doesn't take a long time sitting in the bleachers at a Sherman basketball game to understand that the boys and girls programs are two sides of the same coin. When Swanson's team takes the court, no one cheers louder than the boys that make up Emory's roster, and vice versa.

"Our boys program is really tied in with our girls program,'' Swanson said. ''It is a very close-knit basketball program. Those kind of things have made it very special to have the overall program work so well. Our administration at school has been very supportive.''

Shortly after Swanson read the letter explaining his most recent award, news of the accomplishment began to circulate on Facebook where it was shared between the many basketball players who have called Sherman their home over the years.

"A lot of my players and other assistant coaches and some of the head boys coaches have been a really big help in terms of the Sherman program," Swanson said. "Basketball gets a lot of support in Sherman and it is just such a positive atmosphere to work in. Even on tougher days there has been a lot of support when after a tough loss everyone feels it. It is just a great basketball atmosphere."

In Swanson's eyes, the support of his community and local basketball fans have been a key factor in helping him rack up winning season after winning season, as has been the support of his family.

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.