Hall of Fame Coach Pete Fiorini
Dan Witmer |September 6, 2021
Hah! – another Upstate coaching icon who did NOT learn to play lacrosse at Cortland State! There are a few! Pete Fiorini was a three-sport athlete at CW Baker High School in Baldwinsville, NY. He started playing lacrosse at the age of six when he was introduced to the sport by his older brother John, who was six years older and starting to play in junior high school. Pete played JV lacrosse in ninth grade and then was a member of the varsity team for the next three years. He went on to play for coach Paul Rose (another Bville alum) at SUNY Geneseo, where he still ranks among the program’s top career scorers.

NOTE: According to Geneseo men’s lacrosse archives, Pete ranks #12 in career scoring with 149 points. He also ranks #17 with 72 career goals. That leaves 77 assists, right? Well, according to the archives, Pete is not listed among Geneseo assist leaders, although 77 assists would rank him #9 among all-time Knights scorers. Jus’ sayin’...

Anyway, Pete is in the books with a 6-goal, 4-assist game, 10-point game vs. Brockport in 1976, with only five Geneseo scorers combining for 11 or 12 points. His 42-goal freshman season ranks sixth all-time for most goals in a single year.

For the record, we did not play against one another, which is probably a very good thing for me. I was a 5’9” 155-lb freshman defenseman at Oswego starting the year after Pete graduated from Geneseo, so I was spared at least some embarrassment.

Once finished at Geneseo, Pete was hired at his alma mater, and went on to teach middle school social studies in the Bville school district for 35 years. He spent his first year teaching as the boys’ JV lacrosse coach, and then took over the varsity in 1980, and held that position for 36 years. In 2016 he stepped back and coached the Bville modified team for four years.

Let’s see... 1 + 36 + 4 = 41 years. Forty-one years coaching the Bville Bees. And - oh yeah - 405 career varsity wins. Yowza!

His Bees teams advanced to the state final just once – in 1992 – only to lose to an undefeated Ward Melville team in the state championship down at Hofstra University. “I think about that one way too often,” he muses. “When you get there you have to win, because you never know if you’re going to get back – especially when you had to defeat the best in the country to get out of your own Section.”

OK, let’s talk about the elephant in the room... the West Genesee Wildcats. In order to get to the State playoffs, programs like Fayetteville-Manlius, Liverpool, C-NS, Henninger, and Bville had to find a way to get past Mike Messere’s Wildcats. Coach Fiorini’s record against WG is something like 6-75. “We beat West Genny in ‘93, but lost in sudden death to a great F-M team in the Sectional final. People often asked me, ‘Didn’t it stink having to play WG two or three times a year?’ but it was always an easy answer. ‘Of course not, because you weren’t just playing the best in the Section or state, but for my first 25 years of coaching, you were playing the best team in the country in a lot of people’s opinion. So you had to work so hard just to compete on the same field with them.”

I asked Pete about special memories from his coaching career, and he answered with numerous names of former assistants and rivals. “Sharing 25 years with one guy, Pat Donahue, is as special as it gets. I was the luckiest coach around to have been able to work with Trick. He could have coached anywhere, any level. The level of success we achieved in a league with West Genesee would never have happened without him.”

And he continued... “Then you have all the other fantastic coaches I worked with for so many years: Marty Donahue; Tony Grosso; David Caughey; Doug Jackson; Tommy Hannon; Larry Collins; Matt Wilcox, our current coach, who we all know is doing an incredible job with the Bees; Kevin Johnson; Doug Rowe, our legendary girls coach; Tim Solomon; Tom Manning, my first ever assistant coach; Billy Rumble, who I am proud to still call a great friend; and many others who put in shorter stints but did such a great job for our program.”

And then he went on... “Then there were the wonderful coaches I had the honor of competing against: Mike Messere and Bob Deegan, Tom Hall, Tom Acee, Kerry Quilty, Steve Crosby, to name a few within our league, guys I competed against but will forever call friends.”

Curious about the inevitable “coaching tree,” I asked Pete if he had any protégés. Again, he supplied quite the list. “There are so many, but a few that come to mind are Mike Felice at Liverpool HS; of course, our very own Matt Wilcox; Paul Richards at the University of Richmond; Nick Fiorentino, at my alma mater, Geneseo; Kevin Johnson, who coached with us here at Bville but then worked in the college ranks, and with an outstanding travel team, the Orange Crush.”

Pete also wanted to give “a shout out to Steve Scaramuzzino, who has become a good friend. He heads up the Orange Crush travel team, along with Greg Burns, that my son Peter played for for many years and now works alongside Scarmo.”

Coach Fiorini’s younger son, Pete III, played JV as an eighth-grader and was on the fast-track to playing varsity lacrosse as a CW Baker freshman - so what did Coach Fiorini do?

He decided to retire.

“I had coached Pete in football, basketball, and youth lacrosse, and I didn’t want to be his varsity lacrosse coach. I had 36 years in, and I knew the program was going in the right direction, so I decided it was time. It was my decision, and it allowed me to enjoy watching him play.”

I asked Coach Fiorini about the recent success of Baldwinsville teams at summer tournaments. In an age where it’s getting harder and harder to find school or town teams competing against the travel and club teams, I’ve seen firsthand how Bville teams not only hold their own against the select, big-name all-star teams and frequently go home with tournament championships. He said, “Yeah, you don’t see that very much anymore. We asked the guys to commit to a couple weeks of summer pracrice and three or four tournaments, while still allowing them to play for their travel teams, and we’ve done very well with that. Coach Wilcox continues to do that, and they’ve played together in Maryland, at Lake Placid, and at the Pepper Tournament.”

And, like I said, I think it’s paying off. Baldwinsville won the Section III championships in 2017 and 2019, only to lose to Pitsford in the State semifinals. Last June, they won another Section III title, but didn’t advance because there was no State tournament. This summer, a Baldwinsville team won the Boys Varsity Silver Division championship at Lake Placid, competing against club teams like Sailin’ Shoe, Catamount, Cold Brook, and Rhino (as well as teams from F-M, Ithaca, and J-D).

“Watch that team,” Pete told me. “This year’s juniors were on the modified teams I was coaching when I retired. They’re going to be very good,” he promised.

Indeed, there have been plenty of very good lacrosse players who came through Coach Fiorini’s program. I couldn’t help but think of all the Baldwinsville grads that played for me at Oswego State - Jason Hawthorne, Aaron Gross, Mike Malecki, Jason Webb, John DiCicco, Cam Davoy, and Rob Nalen. Among that group, there are Oswego’s only lacrosse Academic All-American; some all-league players; a coach at Liverpool; teachers at ES-M, Homer, Bville, and Syracuse University; and an OT goal-scorer in one of the most dramatic Laker Lacrosse wins ever. Not too shabby...

I asked Coach to tell me something that most people don’t know about him, and he told me that he’s an avid motorcyclist and a pistol and shotgun target shooter. He’s also a proud member of the Upstate Chapter of US Lacrosse Hall of Fame (2017) as well as a member of the inaugural class of the Baldwinsville Lacrosse HOF (2018).

Today Pete is happily retired, maybe more happily than most. He works frequent bartending shifts at Sal’s Pizza and Restaurant in downtown Baldwinsville, and is often visited by his former players, who might range in age from 21 to almost 60. “I’ve got the best job at the best restaurant in Baldwinsville!” he exclaimed when we spoke recently. “Everyone knows my Jeep, and when they see it in the parking lot at Sal’s, they come in to say hello.”

His daughters Joelle and Kayla work in the Bville School District, and his son Cole is at SUNY ESF. His youngest, Pete III, is a red-shirt junior at Syracuse University. He made sure to mention not only his wife, Lisa, but also his brothers John, David, and Tom, as well as his sister, Maria, “who now rules the roost with Mom and Dad gone.” He has six grandchildren, and he says that “being with family is the most important thing in my life. We all live within a mile of one another and we do everything together. Retirement is fabulous!”

Congrats, Coach - well done!

Thanks for reading, everyone. Please drive carefully; stay safe, stay smart, and stay kind.

- Dan Witmer daniel.witmer@oswego.edu

Dan Witmer is the author of three books.  The Best of Road Trip Dad – The Laker Lacrosse Collection  is an accumulation of 45 articles written for JustLacrosseUpstate between the years 2012 and 2018, about the history and traditions, the people, and the stories of the Oswego State men’s lacrosse program. The book is available on Amazon.com, and at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, the SUNY Oswego College Store in the Marano Campus Center, The Sports Outfit on West Genesee Street in Fairmount, and Geared 2 Sports in Cortland.  … and piles to go before I sleep – The Book of Wit is his memoir describing his 33 year career teaching HS English and coaching at Hannibal Central School. It is available on Amazon.com and at the river's end bookstore. His third book, The Best of RTD – A Lacrosse Coach’s Handbook, has just been released at Amazon.com. It contains more than 55 weekly Road Trip Dad blogs spanning 2012-2020, featuring Xs and Os, highs and lows, and even some Dos and Don'ts, and plenty of advice for coaches of all levels.