The man behind UC Men’s Basketball

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Photo by Gianna Cognetti

Gianna Cognetti, Features Editor

Sean Coffey—a former professional basketball player, a husband, a father — and the coach of the UC men’s basketball team.  He is a driven, dedicated man and the driving force behind this season’s success.   

Coffey was born into the basketball world, from receiving coaching from his father and playing at the collegiate level at Oneonta State, to playing professionally. For him, basketball is not just a sport, but a lifestyle. 

Unfortunately, injuries and age stood in the way of his playing career and he was forced to discontinue.  However, leaving basketball all together was not an option for him. He knew he wanted to stay involved in the basketball world he grew up in. 

Coffey was inspired to coach when he attended a final-four basketball tournament and saw many big time Division One coaches. He had an eye-opening experience and knew coaching was something he would enjoy.

“I think I want to do that,” he said. “That seems pretty cool.”

Starting small, Coffey was an assistant coach at Hudson Valley Community College. He then travelled overseas coaching male and female athletes with ages ranging from under 8 up to 40, while still maintaining a professional basketball career. Coaching various levels and multiple colleges, Coffey’s success has led him to his first head coaching job at UC.

Through his 19 year career, UC stands out to him the most because of the unique diversity that is brought to campus. 

“We can have a kid from the New Jersey area or a kid from Florida,” Coffey said. “I think it makes our program unique because we can have kids from very different places.” 

Coffey’s goal is to turn the program around and not only attract out of state students, but also bring in local students that could be great assets to the team.

“Winning some games helps,” he said. “And a testimony to the guys that help build this thing.”

As far as the mindset headed into the Empire 8 championship, confidence is key. Coffey said they are the most talented team and as long as they play hard and focus on fundamentals, the rest should fall into place.

“Talent only gets you so far,” Coffey said. “It’s competing through all the little parts of the game, rebounding, boxing out and taking care of the ball.”

The best thing about coaching in Coffey’s eyes is the idea of shaping an immature athlete into the capable person that they become after the experience.  He enjoys growing into a family with the teams and jokingly said how “annoying” it is that he now attends six weddings a year for former athletes, spending money on gifts, hotel rooms and plane flights.

Although his basketball family takes up half of his time, his wife and two children take up the other half. His wife, Gabe, is the women’s basketball coach at Herkimer College and he said it can be quite hectic this time of year with two coaches in the house. 

“There is no time for a social life,” he said. “It is them and Utica basketball, keeping it pretty simple.”

His athletes know that everything they learn on the court can and will be effective in their lives outside of basketball.

Sophomore Christopher Green said he has never met someone with the love and passion for the game like Coffey. However, he takes his passion outside of the court as well, making sure the athletes are keeping up in classes and with personal life.

“People can joke around saying how they would sleep in the gym, but I think he actually does that,” Green said. 

Coffey not only helps the team from a basketball standpoint, he also gives his athletes advice that they can use at any point in their lives. Green said he learned the importance of hard work on and off the court and being able to take things seriously.

“I have learned that I have to take certain things seriously,” Green said. “You never know how it will impact your future.”

Senior Ryan Johannes enjoys Coffey’s dedication to his players. Coffey desires for his athletes to strive for success in all they do. 

“He always wants us to be the best versions of ourselves,” Johannes said. “In order to get what we want, we have to be willing to work and give 110%.” 

Johannes learned that if he wants something, he must chase after it. The only thing preventing one from achieving a goal is theirself. 

“He taught me to continuously work hard at everything that I want in life,” Johannes said. “Even if we fall short, we still put in the work that we can always look back and learn from.”

Freshman Thomas Morreale said that Coffey is not only a great coach, but a great role model. Basketball is always on Coffey’s mind and he will do anything to help himself and his players on and off the court.

“My game and the way I live my life has improved tremendously because of him, which is pretty special,” Morreale said. 

Morreale gained perspective on work ethic, making mistakes and the importance of family.  Working hard is a beneficial skill to learn early in life. Mistakes will follow, but making mistakes is how people learn and grow.  Meanwhile, always cherishing family is the most important, even if they throw you a “bad pass” once in a while.

“His love and care for his family has changed my views on family and the important people in my life,” Morreale said.  

Junior Kobe Lufkin admires Coffey’s commitment to basketball. From preseason and postseason lifts, film sessions and practices, his desire for the team to succeed is noticed. 


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