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It what may have been his greatest coaching decision ever, Ciano kept quiet.

He let his players decide, and overwhelmingly they decided to continue. By helping his team not only get past that horrific afternoon but also leading them into the playoffs, Ciano is the TimesLedger PSAL Baseball Coach of the Year.

“As a coach, you always try and get kids to come together as a team, but you know as a coach the tighter they get, the better they’ll be and the better they’ll deal with adversity,” Ciano said. “That was one of the positive outcomes of the whole thing, they stuck together, nobody quit.”

Not only did Cleveland stick together, but the team became even closer.

Ciano’s now-famous saying, “What more pressure is there than running for your life?” calmed the Tigers in the aftermath and brought the fun back to the game.

“I’ve had great teams that never got along, but my best teams have been teams that have bought into that concept of ‘together we stand, divided we fall,’ kind of mentality,” Ciano said. “This group was a classic example of that.”

Putting the incident behind them, the Tigers finished the regular season strong and entered the playoffs as the No. 20 seed. Cleveland upset Cardozo in the first round of the playoffs before falling to John Adams, after being one out away from a major upset.

Ciano, who also coaches the Grover Cleveland girls’ basketball team, said this baseball season — his 14th at Cleveland — was trying, mentally.

“I was exhausted when it was over with, between the crazy weather, the incident, being in a tough division, and every game is important,” he said. “By the end of the year I was spent, more emotionally and mentally than physically.”

Inspired by his high school coach and his father, John Ciano, Ciano got into coaching because of his love for sports.

“I felt if I could help someone like me then I could give something back to the sport and the community.”

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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