DiPiazza dazzles Dove, wins prestigious coaching award
by Justin Porreca
He stood amongst his players, clad in royal blue Nike Albany High Gear. Sweat pants and a hoodie with the letter “A” emblazoned on the chest in black, he stood tall before them, yet they were larger in size. However, on this day—nothing and nobody was bigger than coach Joey DiPiazza.
At one end of the track he stood under an arch of translucent white and powder blue Dove Men + Care Deodorant balloons and at the other end a slew of media members, administration and key community figures were all awaiting to shower him with congratulatory praise for his highest coaching achievement—the Dove Men + Care Deodorant Caring Coach of the Year Award.
There was a missing face amongst the crowd of onlookers, Pastor Charlie Muller, the man who nominated DiPiazza for the award he received Friday afternoon. He wrote a 250-word submission for the award, citing DiPiazza’s “we-building” philosophy and his drive to provide his players a home field of their own. Submissions had to be in by October 6—just before the Falcons rattled off three straight wins and saw DiPiazza’s “we-building” philosophy come full-circle.
DiPiazza’s story was one of hundreds of inspirational and extraordinary passages submitted for the Dove Men + Care Deodorant Caring Coach of the Year Award, coaches who immersed themselves amongst their players and their community, and he was one of four coaches recognized nationwide.
Dove Men + Care Deodorant senior brand building manager, Jeff Wong, saw DiPiazza’s story and was immediately blown away—he knew his story best exemplified “caring coach.”
“His story of bringing a community together and imparting his care to basically get a big job done, it’s never been done in Albany before. In the past six years, they have a stadium here is unbelievable,” Wong said. “I’m so excited for the future of this city because you can see the players really believing in themselves, you can see the community starting to rally behind this idea, so it’s been really phenomenal.”
Those players, his players, marched behind him in synchronization—as a team—up the faded burgundy track to a crowd of screaming students, waving black Dove Men + Care deodorant foam fingers.
The scene resembled that of Rocky Balboa’s statue unveiling in Rocky III, the emotion in the air was palpable, the crowd was electric—for once Albany High School was being recognized for positivity after their renovation project was denied.
Principal Dale Getto kicked the festivities off with several introductions of city officials and board members in attendance. Once the acknowledgements were completed, City of Albany treasurer, Darius Shahinfar, took the podium on the behalf of mayor Kathy Sheehan who couldn’t be in attendance.
Shahinfar announced to the roaring crowd that mayor Sheehan deemed, November 20, 2015, Joey DiPiazza day, for his outstanding work in the community and with his football team.
DiPiazza was flattered, humbled—flabbergasted and this was just the first recognition he received.
Wong and College Football Hall of Fame chief revenue officer, Brad Olecki, stepped up to the microphone next, to deliver their praises for what DiPiazza has done for the community of Albany and his players through his “we-building” philosophy.
“He’s bringing together a team and it is about building a community together and everyone is involved in that and I think that’s really just showcasing how he cares for the community, but also how he’s making the community all work together to build something really special,” Wong said.
District Attorney, David Soares, went to the podium next to deliver the award—the Caring Coach of the Year Award.
He sang DiPiazza’s praises, on and off the field; embarking on a political battle for the field he wanted his players to have. Championing his efforts in uniting the community together to get people to vote “yes” for the turf field project, because it wasn’t for him, but his players.
Soares didn’t go without recognizing those very players for their role and contribution toward their coach’s undying effort to get them and players generations from now their own state-of-the-art facility.
“The reason why this is so important is because we want these young people to be the face of this community,” he said “We want this team, that effort, the work that they put in, to be the character that shapes this city and not the other violence that I deal with on a daily basis.”
Once Soares finished his speech, he called up DiPiazza to present him with his prestigious award.
He held it in his hands, admiring the translucent hardware with his name etched below the Dove “Caring Coach” emblem.
The emotion was painted across his face and it was not the usual emotion he has on the field—it was a different kind of emotion. He fumbled a couple times on the microphone and at times he was lost of words, speechless—humbled.
He concluded his brief speech by calling his players up to the podium and having them break it down one last time. Amongst those players was standout wide receiver, junior Jarrell Chaney, a big reason why the Falcons and DiPiazza’s “we-building” philosophy was successful down the stretch.
“He’s been doing his best to make us better people and make us better football players and students and it’s basically an award for his hard work and determination,” he said.
Expectations were mixed once DiPiazza was hired. The three coaches before him were unsuccessful, so when he took the field, week one against Columbia High School, the crowd was raucous, but uncertain.
“I expected the excitement with the field, I didn’t expect the change in the high school perspective of our students. I didn’t expect the full-on pride that people have in being in being an Albany High Falcon and really the joy people have,” said Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, Albany City School District superintendent.
After the first seven games, the excitement was dead, but one win changed everything and three wins changed the atmosphere of the entire school and how the football team was looked at. They were no longer the loveable losers, but a potential threat in the Class AA Empire Division next season.
With these very wins, DiPiazza brought in fans from everywhere. The stands were not just filled with students and faculty, but community members, non-parents, just fans of watching high school football.
His “we-building” philosophy was achieved.
DiPiazza is an experienced veteran in the rebuilding or “we-building” department, taking athletic teams in desolate disrepair and turning them into success stories. However, his last rebuilding project won him a championship—this one won him a national award in only his first year.
“When I first came here Joey [DiPiazza] was the baseball coach and we were one of the best teams in Section II baseball, so I got to watch him first hand and I knew essentially that anything Joey DiPiazza touches turns to gold and when we had the opportunity to hire him as the football coach last year I couldn’t be happier,” said Kathy Ryan, athletics director at Albany High School.
This award was not on his coaching agenda or five-year plan for Albany High football, winning a Super Bowl and restoring the reputation of this program, this school and this community was and still is.
DiPiazza relates his rebuilding project with the football team to that of the baseball program he turned into champions six years prior. He hopes to bring Albany High it’s first Super Bowl in 20 years—a similar feat he accomplished in 2009 when he won the BIG 10 title in baseball—a first time in 20 years.
Now for the 38-year-old, who endured heartbreak as a young child, owing everything he has in life to athletics, he has to refocus and work on getting his players better so he can achieve his ultimate goal with this program—a Super Bowl.
“To know Joey [DiPiazza], you have to know where he came from and where we came from, opportunities were provided to us; we had challenges growing up as well, same challenges as the students here face everyday,” said Michael DiPiazza, Joey DiPiazza’s youngest brother. “That drive, the drive he has has developed from where we come from.”
That very drive earned DiPiazza a spot in an exhibit at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Georgia to go along with his Dove Men + Care Deodorant Caring Coach of the Year Award. He will be honored at that exhibit for the next year along with the three other winners
“The end destination has never been the scoreboard at the end of the game or the final record at the end of the season, it’s about caring for kids and being committed for kids, committed to kids and I was fortunate to have people that committed to myself, coaches that committed to myself and it’s just great to give back to kids and create new opportunities and it’s pretty special,” DiPiazza said.-30-