Tsai leads Lewis amid challenges at home

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ALBANY — This season may have been the most trying as well as the most rewarding for Francis Lewis Coach Steve Tsai.

The sixth-year head man led the Patriots girls’ basketball team to its first PSAL Class AA city title since 1979 all while helping to raise a 2-year-old and dealing with the news that his unborn twin daughters have congenital heart defects.

“It comes down to my wife [Roxanne] being able to handle a toddler and letting me do all that,” Tsai said of coaching. “It’s been really difficult, but at the same time it’s been so enjoyable.”

The couple found out in January that their twins, who are expected in May, have tetralogy of fallot, a combination of four birth defects that together affect the structure of the heart and how blood flows through it.

The National Institutes of Health estimates that the condition occurs in five out of every 10,000 babies, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention cites a study that 1,660 children in the United States are born with tetralogy of fallot.

With the defect, not enough blood reaches the lungs to get oxygen, and then oxygen-poor blood flows through the body, according to the NIH. Tetralogy of fallot is repaired with open-heart surgery, and most children born with the condition reach adulthood, but need lifelong medical care from specialists to stay as healthy as possible, the organization said.

Tsai and his wife decided to keep the babies knowing they would require corrective heart surgeries. One child will need it immediately after being born and the other within three months, according to Roxanne Montalvo-Tsai.

Then both will likely need another surgery when they are about 15 years old, but doctors expect the twins to have a good quality of life, she said.

“I don’t know how Steve was coaching throughout all of this,” Montalvo-Tsai said.

But Tsai, a guidance counselor at Francis Lewis and a Manhattan resident, has managed to carve out time to become a better coach and keep his team prepared. His nightly routine consists of getting home around 8 p.m. and having his son Jordan fall asleep next to him. Tsai wakes up around 2 a.m. to work on basketball game plans, read hoops books and watch DVDs for two hours. He’s back at Lewis by 9 a.m.

“Some of these coaches, they have a lot of years under their belt and more experience,” Tsai said. “For me, I never wanted to use an excuse of, ‘Oh, I don’t have as much experience.’”

He has done everything he could to catch up to veterans since his first season in 2008. He took over for then-suspended Coach Mike Eisenberg in December of that year. Tsai, who had been the Patriots’ junior varsity boys’ coach prior, remembered his girls’ varsity team getting blown out by squads led by legendary veterans like Ed Grezinsky, of Murry Bergtraum, and Bob Daggett, of St. Peter’s, even as the Patriots’ roster was filled with scholarship players. He vowed to become better and tried to learn as much has he could.

Lewis Athletic Director Arnie Rosenbaum sees a night and day difference now.

“At this level, he said [to himself] if you don’t put the time and effort in, you are not going to do well, so he started studying,” Rosenbaum said.

Tsai credited his wife and assistant Coach Frank Wilbeck for supporting him and allowing him to do what he loves. He said his fellow guidance counselors even picked him up on days they saw him dragging. His dedication and enthusiasm are not lost on his players either.

“It rubs off on us pretty well,” junior guard Chi La Bady said. “I feel like if you don’t have a coach who is concentrating on getting the wins, making the team better, each individual better, then what is your team really about? He is a coach that cares a lot about each one of us.”

Tsai’s efforts helped his young roster develop quicker than expected. The Patriots finished the season 24-4 and ended Bergtraum’s 15-year reign over the PSAL. There was no looking back for Tsai when the season came to a close with a 53-42 loss to Long Island Lutheran in the state Federation Class AA semifinals Friday in Albany. He wants to get back and get further.

“Each of the girls has to get better,” Tsai said. “I have to get better.”

History shows he will.

Updated 1:33 am, March 28, 2014
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Reader feedback

Altair Ibn Lahaad from Fresh Meadows says:
Andrew Tsai is a bad counselor. Unlike the other counselors, he deals with students that have substance abuse issues. He put clowns in my honors classes. These guys were following me around the school, smoking at the gas station, making disturbances in the class, and ultimatly cutting class. He said that his country is superior to mine, so he could do what he wants. The clowns he put in my classes gave me a hard time. I wish they had not removed my schedule without my permission to see what classes i'm taking.
Sept. 14, 2017, 6:23 pm
Rashid Al Sinan from Flushing, NY says:
The students that were making the disturbances were: Sarah So and Elizabeth Kim. They were milking the classroom for grades. Not only did they bring pocket knives to school, they applied to be our grader. I dont want my paper graded by crackheads. Shi'it!
Sept. 15, 2017, 9:35 pm
Bashaar Al Samir from Manhattan, Ny says:
Mutherfuking Asians were like "can you tutor me?" And then they wrote me up for methenthetamine. Tsai went to court and said that I stabbed him. I was on parole for THIRTY years because the school kept writing me up drugs and assault. All I wanted to do was join the military since I was 12.
You see, I did not commit these crimes. The school just wanted to make money by putting me in AP classes (which only had three people by the way). Each staff member earned 100,000$ a year from watching students, and this was back in 1999. They were like "the board of ed. requires it". Every time I tried to join the military, GUIDANCE would press charges, and I would get arrested by NYPD while in BOOT CAMP of the military. All the staff members are retarded.
Sept. 17, 2017, 8:20 pm
Hassan Ibn Kaldoun from Manhattan, Ny says:
All the Asian students are unhygienic. They never brush their teeth in the morning and they smell like ass. They left their countries to flee persecution because they're schools cost over 80-G/yr and their doctors do experiments on people. The education is useless because what's written in the textbook is actually wrong. I've been to China, and they DONT have robotics like the textbook says.
Sept. 20, 2017, 7:45 am
Altair IBn Lahaad from Fresh meadows, Ny says:
Stephen Tsai is a corrupt guidance counselor. He put incompetant people in my class. They were making noise and stabbing people. This article is not worth reading.
Oct. 2, 2017, 7:17 pm
Tommy del cruz from Maori, Ny says:
Tā zài wǒ de bān shàng fàngle yī zhǐ chǒngwù. Zhège jiāhuo shì jīngshén fēnliè zhèng huànzhě, cóng shàngwǔ 5 diǎn dào xiàwǔ 12 diǎn tā yī zhěng tiān dū zài shuōhuà. Ránhòu tā kāishǐ zài kètáng shàng zuò fàn, tā gěi nǐ wǔcān. Tā rēngle jǐ pìgu hé yèzi. Gèng zāo de shì, tā dǎ diànhuà gěi nǐ, jiéshùle cónglái méiyǒu shíjì kāishǐ de wú xiūzhǐ de tánhuà.
Jan. 14, 8:38 pm
Tommy del cruz from Maori, Ny says:
geuneun nae sueob-e aewan dongmul-eul neoh-eossda. geu chinguneun jeongsin bun-yeoljeung hwanja yeossgo, 5am-eseo 12pmkkaji halu jong-il iyagileul nanueossseubnida. geu da-eum geuneun jeonyeog sigsaleul sueob-eseo sijaghaessgo geuneun jeomsim sigsaleul jegonghabnida. geuneun yaggan-ui bang-gwiwa namus-ip-eul deonjibnida. seolsang-gasang-eulo geuneun jeonhwalo jeonhwaleul geol-eo siljelo sijaghan jeog-ieobsneun kkeut-eobsneun daehwaleul mamulihabnida
Jan. 14, 8:39 pm

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