Ahart steps down after amazing coaching career
By John Bernhardt
When Roscoe boys basketball coach Fred Ahart locked the balls in the equipment room and stored away the team uniforms after Wednesday night’s final game of the season, he completed another chapter of an incredible coaching saga. Ahart’s coaching narrative at the tiny Sullivan County school covers 43 chapters, 43 seasons as the Blue Devil football and basketball coach. Ahart’s story is a story of resilience, a story of loyalty, a story of family, and a story of a love in helping shape the lives of young men.
The Roscoe coach has roots that stretch to Delaware County. Ahart met Margaretville’s Glenn Reither playing basketball at Candor Central School, when Reither was visiting a college friend and watched the four sport Candor star at a basketball game. Basketball coaches from Andes, Margaretville, and Roxbury have longstanding ties with Ahart, facing his Roscoe teams in non-league contests many times over the years.
Ahart’s interest in coaching dates all the way back to his college days. When he was assigned student teaching duties by Ithaca College at Newfield Central School in 1968, Bob Robinson, the Newfield Athletic Director asked if he would coach the Junior Varsity basketball team.
That junior varsity season was pivotal for Ahart as he tackled all the issues that sometimes derail coaches in small high schools. Ahart coached his future brother-in-law, took his team to the IAC J.V. championship game, and most importantly learned that success in coaching demanded focusing young energy on the next game. Ahart emphasizes coaching longevity requires letting the last game go and playing the game one game at a time.
In the fall of 1969, it was off to Roscoe where Ahart has made his home for 43 years. According to Ahart the early years weren’t always pretty. Using trial and error the young Blue Devil coach worked hard trying to establish himself in a rugged Western Sullivan League.
Had some help
Ahart got a lot of help in those early years from two competitors, coaching legends Paul Zintel of Jeff-Youngsville and Stan Kobylenski of Delaware Valley. “Paul used to beat us badly on Tuesday night then call me up on Wednesday and explain point-by-point how he did it,” laughed Ahart. “You have no idea how valuable that proved to be.” According to Ahart, Kobylenski, a rough, gruff bear of a man on the outside was supportive and accommodating, sharing many tricks of the trade.
Ahart was a model student and as the years passed his win totals climbed. His 1983-84 Blue Devil basketball season was a turnaround year. Ahart’s team finished in a first place tie with Delaware Valley and won the WSL title in a play-off game. The Blue Devils next nailed down the Section IX title, and then beat Schroon Lake in a State Regional contest in Glen’s Falls, the only win by a W.S.L. boys’ basketball team in tournament history. Ahart’s gang would finally be stopped by Fort Ann in the semi-finals.
That season unleashed a torrent of winning years that included 30 consecutive W.S.L. victories and 29 wins in a row at home. Ahart’s basketball teams took 5 W.S.L. championships, yet some of his most gratifying victories came coaching football. In 1989 and 1990, Roscoe’s gridiron teams were Section IX, Class D champions and played for the Regional title. Roscoe feel to Hancock in 89 at Cornell but shutout Delhi, 30-0, in Kingston to take the title the following year.
Made hall of fame
A New York State High School Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, Ahart gives credit first to his family when discussing his long tenure at Roscoe. His wife Becky and his five children; Mary Ann Clancy and Ralph and Katie Ahart of Roscoe, Michelle Ahart-Bosland of Otisville, and Kelly Mulls of Camp Hill, Pa. were instrumental in keeping his competitive juices alive.
“Coaching at Roscoe was a family activity. I tell people I’m actually the second best coach in the Ahart house,” laughed the legendary Roscoe coach. Ahart’s wife, Becky, is a highly successful hoops coach of the Roscoe girls. “The kids kept stats, worked as managers and played on the Roscoe teams. They have all been incredibly supportive.”
Over the years, Ahart’s involvement with basketball has forged some unique friendships. Ahart can only shake his head in wonder remembering a summer day when this huge mountain of a guy walked into the Roscoe gymnasium with a basketball and started working out. It was Mike Giminski, the center of the New Jersey Nets basketball team. Giminski and his wife Staci had purchased a second home in Roscoe and the professional basketball star needed a place to work out.
The Aharts and the Giminskis became close family friends, visiting each other’s homes, attending each other’s games. That friendship put the Ahart’s in touch with the coaches and players of Giminski’s teams. When Giminski was traded to Philadelphia, the Aharts met Charles Maureen Barkey and a new friendship blossomed. The Barkleys and their children spent time at the Ahart home in Roscoe with the Ahart’s returning the favor by visiting the Barkley’s Philadelphia. Ahart laughs when asked about Barkley’s flamboyant public persona reporting that privately the Hall of Fame basketball star is far more reserved.
Taste of the pros
Fred would visit the 76er’s training camp at Franklin Marshall College during Jim Leyman’s years coaching at Philly. Leyman included Ahart as an equal inviting him to participate in coaching “skull sessions.” Ahart met Jay Wright, a great friend of Giminski’s, and an assistant coach at Villanova. When Villanova reached the NCAA Final Four three years past, Ahart e-mailed a congratulations note to Wright. Less than 30 minutes later, in the midst of the tumult of the historic victory, the Villanova coach responded.
At Roscoe, Ahart also became a close friend of legendary coach Clair Bee. Bee often attended Roscoe basketball practices and became a regular speaker at Blue Devil athletic banquets.
People are key
For Ahart the magic of all his seasons in Roscoe resides in people. When Ahart talks about his induction into the Hall of Fame he emphasizes it’s never an individual coach who is awarded that honor. According to Ahart a Hall of Fame coach is a reflection of all the players, coaches, parents and people who have crossed his or her path.
Ended teaching work
Ahart retired from teaching in 2007 but still serves as Roscoe’s Athletic Director. Ahart is the Co-chair of Section IX Basketball and the State Representative for Section IX on the N.Y.S. Basketball Committee. In addition, Ahart serves as the Eligibility Chairman of Section IX’s Athletic Council.
Most impressively, the Ahart’s have 13 grandchildren with an age span that stretches from 22 years to 1. So far, two Ahart granddaughters have played on Becky’s Roscoe teams and two grandsons have played for Fred. Sophomore scoring sensation Rob Taurino, who scored 30 points in a game against Margaretville this season, is Ahart’s grandson.