John Demas got into coaching to help kids — not to win championships, not to win hundreds of games, not to make a name for himself.
Naturally, after picking up his 500th win Dec. 7, a 93-87 victory over Aviation, the 25th-year William Bryant coach was still thinking about his kids.
Rather than celebrate the milestone, he was focused on the Owls’ next game — Monday at Newtown. While everyone in the gym, from players to family and friends to alumni, swarmed him in adulation, Demas was more concerned with displaying good sportsmanship and making sure everything was in order.
“To me, winning the game was more important than the number of wins,” he said. “I look at it now and I think it’s fantastic, very few can say [they’ve won 500 games]. But I’m worried about the next game already, trying to win the next one.”
The 62-year-old Whitestone native, who retired from teaching after 32 years at Bryant, got into coaching in 1977. He spent 10 years coaching soccer at Bryant, before moving over to basketball at Newtown. He moved back to Bryant and boys’ hoops in 1986 and has remained at the Long Island City school ever since.
“I enjoy what I’m doing,” he said. “I enjoy working with the kids. It’s as much fun as when I started.”
He’s had plenty of success, reaching the quarterfinals in the PSAL’s highest classification three times and winning a Queens crown in 2002. He’s produced plenty of standouts, such as professionals like Tony Dennison, Johnny Barnes and Sal Patricio. His greatest moment came in 2005, when Bryant upset Brooklyn powerhouse Boys & Girls in Bed-Stuy in the second round of the city playoffs.
“That was a great feeling,” he recalled fondly.
His son Jason, who was on that 2005 team and is now an assistant coach, said his father’s practices have always stayed with him. They were intense, but always detail-oriented and organized, always a mission.
“There’s never been a practice you just throw out the balls and play, there’s always teaching going on,” Jason said. “There was purpose in every drill.”
Demas, in fact, said that’s his favorite part of coaching because it’s where players get better. He’s always taken particular joy in turning raw talents who only had streetball experience into smart and intelligent players.
“I like the teaching, seeing kids grow and develop,” he said. “You see them grow, you see them get better and once they get into games and have confidence, they can perform on the floor better.”
Having coached at Bryant so long, Demas has had the opportunity to coach several father-and-son tandems, another aspect of the job he thoroughly enjoys. His proudest accomplishment has been his graduation rate, sending so many players to college, whether they continued on the court or not.
“That’s more important to me,” Demas said.
After the win, Demas’ players swarmed him, offering congratulations. Demas was thrilled with the outpouring of emotion, but he wanted to make clear what was important.
“It’s not about me, it’s not about you,” he told them. “It’s about us.”
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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