Silver Creek basketball coach Rob Genco gathered his team together in the locker room located in the bowels of the Glens Falls Civic Center last month, but words were hard to come by.
The Black Knights had just suffered a 52-49 loss to Pine Plains in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C semifinal, ending their season one game shy of their ultimate goal.
After a glorious run from Silver Creek to Jamestown to Buffalo to Rochester and, ultimately, to an arena in the North Country, Genco was going to have to deliver a speech unlike any he'd given all season.
Silver Creek coach Rob Genco guided the Black Knights to a 23-1 record and a berth in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C final four in Glens Falls. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Scott Kindberg
''I pulled them all in and told them that there was nothing I could say that would make them not hurt,'' he recalled last week. ''But I also told them that when they looked back and reflected on everything they had done ... no one could take that from them.''
Not the 23-1 record.
Not the Section 6 Class C-2 title.
Not the Section 6 Class C championship.
And not the Far West Regional crown.
''I told them that they were the best team that their community had ever laid eyes on,'' Genco added, '' ... and they got the big picture. ... For one season, they were everything that life should be. Inside those lines, they were a perfect model of what life should be.
''We don't have a fancy New York State trophy in the (school) trophy case, but that's never why we played. We did it for the right reason. I told them I loved them and that they'll forever have a friend and someone to talk to.''
The bond between the players and their coach was evident by the way the Black Knights played, an it's-amazing-what-you-can-do-if-nobody-cares-who-gets-the-credit mentality that made them entertaining to watch and, at their best, impossible to stop.
Leading the way from the bench was the 34-year-old Genco, who has compiled a 58-9 record in three seasons, and is The Post-Journal's choice as its 2012-13 Coach of the Year. An Eden native, Genco played football at SUNY Brockport and continues to play recreational hoops in competitive leagues in West Seneca.
''This is my passion,'' he said. ''I schedule my life around basketball, whether I'm coaching it or playing it. I still want to win, and that's how we play.''
But, Genco, who is also the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association and Basketball Coaches Association of New York Coach of the Year, insists, there was more to this year's team than the athleticism of Zed Williams, the 3-point accuracy of Kaine Kettle, the low-post presence of Bill Brooks or the guttiness of Steve Marcey. Taking lessons he learned from his grandmother, Genco has sought to follow her lead.
''I wanted to be like my grandmother,'' Genco said. ''My platform is coaching and I put a lot of extra time into deepening relationships with these guys. I cherish these relationships more than some of the relationships with adults in my life. There is caring and loving on both sides.''