Love of basketball, people drives longtime instructor
Basketball has been an integral part of Michael Coleman’s life for more than 40 years — and it’s that love of the sport that keeps him coming back to Mill Middle School on Wednesday nights during the fall and winter.
Coleman, a Snyder resident since the 1970s, currently “teaches” the Williamsville Community Education Basketball for Men Over 25 “class,” which is essentially an opportunity for pickup games for players of various ages and skill levels. It’s a program the former Buffalo State College team member inherited from his father when he decided it was time to hang up his high tops.
“I’ve been coming to Williamsville Community Ed since I was probably about 12 years old, when my father ran it; I used to finish my basketball practice, do my homework, eat my dinner and then hop in the car with dad,” Coleman said. “When my father said he didn’t want to do it anymore — I was around 21 or 22 — he asked if I wanted to take it over, so I did. I’ll be 62 this year, so that’s just about 40 years of ‘night school’ basketball.”
Coleman, who also played in the program until his knee pain proved too unbearable just a few years ago, has also conducted a number of youth basketball camps at Sweet Home, the University at Buffalo and Buffalo State as part of his self-described “gym rat basketball junkie” life. Coleman’s passion for the game — and his desire to share that interest — has never waned, even as he’s observed what he feels is a bit of a drop-off in the sport’s participation.
“We’re always looking for players to come out,” Coleman said. “Over the years, we’d have 30 guys at each class and waiting lists to get in, but now it’s dwindled a bit. I keep it clean so that the guys can get up and go to work the next morning without being hurt. We’ve got our youngest guy who’s in his 20s, to our oldest who’s in his late 50s. I’ll keep doing it until no one wants to show up anymore.”
Though the current session began a few weeks ago, Coleman said there’s always room for a player to sign up on a limited basis, just to try out the program. There’s plenty of basketball — and camaraderie — to go around in Coleman’s eyes.
“The people you meet, that’s the other reason I keep doing this,” Coleman said. “I’ve met a lot of great people from so many different places over the years. It’s fun for me to give the guys a hard time about their shot or their defense. I do miss playing along, though. Just taking the ball down the length of the court and dishing it off to somebody, the high of going out on the court and not thinking of anything else; that’s the best. Hopefully, my ‘students’ feel the same way.”
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