AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam native Paul Cisek keeps adding to his legacy as a basketball coach.
Cisek, 62, recently guided Brookdale Community College to its third NJCAA Division III championship in men’s basketball at Herkimer College. A member of the Upstate New York Basketball Hall of Fame, Cisek won his 600th career game with Brookdale on Jan. 25.
Cisek said he’s been fortunate to learn from good coaches and have a wonderful staff at Brookdale. He grew up as a three-sport athlete in Amsterdam playing for coaches such as Rick Cetnar and Brian Mee.
He started his coaching career at Oswego State, from which he received his bachelor’s degree. After that, he served as an assistant for the legendary Jerry Welsh at Potsdam State. From there, he went to Paul Smith’s College.
“So I was student activities director, dorm director and men’s basketball coach,” Cisek said by phone. “At the time, they had lost a lot of games. I was able to build that program with guys from the Capital District.”
He finished with a 62-24 record at the isolated school in the Adirondacks, and transitioned to assistant jobs at Monmouth and Wagner. He went to Brookdale to finally become a head coach in 1991-92.
“I was their fourth coach in seven years, and at the time the athletic director said I needed to stay for three years, and I’ve been here ever since,” Cisek said.
Cisek’s other NJCAA titles came in 2012-13 with a 33-1 team, and in 2017-18 with a 34-0 team. This year’s Jersey Blues squad finished 30-3.
With such success, it’s natural that Cisek had offers to move to bigger programs, but he wasn’t swayed.
“I have family here, two kids, now five grandchildren,” Cisek said. “I got a few offers here and there, but my family was here, so it was going to take a great situation for me to leave, and none of them were that.”
Cisek said he never sets the NJCAA Tournament as a goal, but rather every year the goal is to win their Region XIX. His teams have been to the nationals seven times.
“Each year’s [championship] team was different, but they all bonded well at the end. This team could score. They felt they could outscore anybody. But they got on the glass and did a lot of little things,” Cisek said.
This year’s squad wasn’t challenged much, Cisek said, but it had to face a tough Northampton team in the Regional final.
“They looked me in the eye and said, ‘We got this,’” Cisek recalled. “In the nationals, we were seeded third, which meant we got the bye the first day so we could see our next opponent play. Afterward, we got on the bus, and they said, ‘We got this.’”
Cisek said his biggest concerns were about his team’s health. Two players had the stomach flu and missed some of the games, while another played with a recovering high ankle sprain.
“But we won with a lot of desire,” he said.