Ben Drake stands at the podium at a single finish of Darrah Hall at Christ Very first United Methodist Church, web site of the Jamestown Higher College boys basketball banquet.
As the occasion — celebrating the Red Raiders’ 2022-23 season — draws to a close, the longtime coach provides a couple of words of tips for the underclassmen.
“Don’t be a single of these players that appears back and wishes that they would have completed anything that they didn’t do. That is my challenge,” Drake says. “Set objectives for your self. Make them optimistic, but also make them realistic.”
Then he wishes the gathering a goodnight and the space starts to empty.
What Drake does not inform them, nonetheless, is certainly the largest news: immediately after 25 seasons, the winningest coach in college history is stepping down.
How great has Drake been on the sidelines at his alma mater?
Nicely, the numbers inform the story.
Considering the fact that he took more than for Ron Frederes to start out the 1998-99 season, Drake has posted a 425-131 record (.764) won 17 Erie County Interscholastic Conference Division 1 championships, seven Section VI titles and 3 Far West Regional crowns and produced 3 trips to the New York State Public Higher College Athletic Association Final 4 in Glens Falls, reaching the championship game twice.
To recommend that these coaching accomplishments could have possibly been forecast a quarter-century ago would be a attain. Soon after all, who coaches at such a higher level for that lengthy? What is specific, even though, is that basketball figuratively got hold of Drake at a extremely young age.
And it never ever lost its grip.
Expanding up on Jamestown’s northside, Drake, his sister, Julie, and their parents, Dan and Bonnie, lived in a two-family members household. Whilst they occupied the downstairs, they rented the second floor for a number of years to Jamestown Neighborhood College men’s basketball coach Nick Creola.
Predictably, Drake identified his way to the Physical Education Complicated on campus for practices and games. He was even permitted to be component of the Jayhawks’ pregame layup drill prior to standing-space-only crowds. That is when the higher Jamestown neighborhood was introduced to “Dr. B” — Drake’s nickname in the early 1980s — for the 1st time.
It was just the starting of his hoops odyssey.
Soon after a standout senior season at JHS — he was The Post-Journal’s Player of the Year for the 1989-90 campaign — Drake continued his academic and athletic profession at SUNY Brockport. Soon after 4 years, he completed in the best ten in ten unique categories, such as consecutive games with a three-point field aim (23, 1st) profession cost-free-throw percentage (.843, second) and profession points (1,266, seventh). In mixture with a robust commitment to the classroom, he was a third-group CoSIDA Academic All-American as a senior, the 1st Brockport male to be so honored. 4 years immediately after his college graduation, Drake, who had previously served as athletic director at Keshequa Central College, was named the varsity boys basketball coach at his higher college alma mater.
“Honestly, it was a single of the very best days of my life seeking back on it,” Drake mentioned final week. “It appears like it was yesterday. The years have flown by so quick. It is really hard to think it is been 25 years. I’m so thankful to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ for providing me that chance. I really feel as even though that came from Him that He led me to this position, so I’m just thankful to be capable to coach for the Red Raiders for the final 25 years. I felt it was what I was meant to do.”
Drake’s memories of his time on the Jamestown bench are, in a word, “endless.”
“The lifelong relationships I have with so quite a few players are what I’ll bear in mind the most,” he mentioned. ” … So quite a few of these little ones had been genuinely like sons to us. I genuinely enjoyed these relationships and continue to have wonderful relationships with a lot of these guys.”
There have been lots of memorable on-court moments, also, such as the 3 trips to Glens Falls 22 trips to the sectional final 4 at Buffalo State and down-to-the-wire victories at McElrath Gymnasium.
1 of these occurred against Riverside, a college from Buffalo.
“I appear back at that game and it was an improbable win,” Drake recalled. “We had been down like seven points in the fourth quarter and came back and won. I bear in mind Carlos (Rivera) creating a shot to tie it or bring us to inside a bucket. I felt like the health club was shaking beneath our feet. I do not bear in mind it ever becoming that loud. That was undoubtedly a single of the very best games in the ‘Mac.’”
Moving forward, Drake will be trading in his seat on the bench to a single in the bleachers. His resignation letter was accepted at Tuesday night’s Jamestown Public Schools board of education meeting.
“In quite a few techniques, it was a challenging choice, for the reason that I nonetheless enjoy coaching and I nonetheless enjoy teaching the game of basketball,” he mentioned. “But it is the appropriate choice and I know it is time.”
Drake credited his wife, Karen, for her quite a few sacrifices by means of the years as he pursued his coaching passion.
“We have six young children and a single grandchild, operating in age from two to 24, and it can be extremely difficult with so quite a few little ones,” he mentioned. “With (Marley and Trey) heading off to college, we appear forward to becoming capable to go watch them play and have the flexibility to do that when we want to do that.”
Drake, 51, noted that he hopes to have a new varsity head coach in spot by the finish of April.
“For the advantage of the plan, the sooner we move on that, the improved,” Drake mentioned. “I’m currently creating plans for summer season league and acquiring emails for games for subsequent year. … I would like to have that completed relatively immediately.”
Drake credited his employees — varsity assistant Marty Stockwell, junior varsity coach Billy Miley, volunteer varsity assistant, former freshman coach Tage Hall and present freshman coach Luis Castro — as a single of the key causes for the program’s achievement for much more than two decades.
“It’s extremely distinctive to have a group of coaches collectively for that lengthy,” Drake mentioned. “Having guys who either played for me, and with me, for so lengthy has been specific, distinctive.”
So what’s subsequent?
Whilst Drake mentioned he will stay as the Jamestown Public Schools director of athletics, physical education, overall health, and family members and customer sciences, he noted that he plans to “spend much more time in ministry and preparing my subsequent measures as the Lord leads.”
He added: “There are seasons in life. My subsequent season, rather than (coaching), is going to concentrate much more on family members and ministry. … I’m positive there will be occasions subsequent season when I’ll miss it, for positive. I loved game evening and I loved teaching in the middle of winter, 7 o’clock at evening … in the health club and acquiring a group to come collectively, but I know it is the appropriate factor to do.”
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