It was the day after the Batavia Blue Devils dropped a first-round Section V playoff game to Aquinas in 1997 that Alex Nesbeth and Mike Glow came to Coach Myron "Buddy" Brasky and said, "Next year, we're going to win the sectionals."
Brasky looked at his junior players, shrugged, and said, "yeah, OK."
"No, Coach," Nesbeth said. "We're going to do it. We're going to do whatever it takes."
The Blue Devils hadn't so much as won its division in years and years, and Brasky, in his seventh season as head coach, had just posted his first winning campaign, leading the team to a 11-10 record.
From the day Brasky took over, the naysayers told the young coach the Blue Devils would never win another championship in basketball. Batavia was too small of a school in a big-school division. There was just no way to beat the big boys from Monroe County.
An 11-10 season wasn't exactly a prelude to proving the skeptics wrong, but Nesbeth and three of his teammates decided it was high time to do just that.
"That’s when I was teaching at Jackson School," Brasky said. "It was the middle of winter and those kids -- there were four of them -- they would walk from the high school to Jackson School and do skill work with me. Almost every day, from about 3:30 to 5. We had a small, tiny gym, just two baskets, and they worked and worked and worked."
The next season, the Blue Devils posted an impressive 20-4 record. But more importantly, they won a Section V title -- the first of three titles the Blue Devils posted in Brasky's 20 years as the team's head coach.
"The Pride is Alive."
That was the motto Brasky coined for the team when he took over as coach prior to the 1990-91 season.
The Batavia-born-and-bred athletics fanatic never forgot the glory years of Blue Devils basketball from his young days -- the years of John Walton, the Wescotts, Bruce Beswick and Billy Monroe.
But by the time Brasky was the starting point guard, the glory years, the pride, were starting to fade.
"When I played here, we were just average," Brasky said. "We weren’t great. That’s where it started going down a little bit, and after I graduated, it went way down."
Brasky enrolled at GCC after graduation and then transferred to SUNY Cortland. He completed his degree in Physical Education and soon after moved to Denver, where he worked for health clubs. From there, he moved back to Buffalo.
Then a coaching and teaching position opened in Batavia. This is what Brasky had always wanted to do.
As an athlete, he gravitated toward the leadership positions on teams -- quarterback in football, catcher in baseball, point guard in basketball. He hung close to his coaches. He didn't strive to be the star of the team. He liked the leadership role and he looked up to the men that molded the teams he played on.
"I’ve known since I was 10 years old I wanted to be a coach," Brasky said.
But it wasn't easy taking over Blue Devils basketball. It was a program that wasn't in the habit of posting winning records -- the team would win only two games in Brasky's second season -- but the coach said he knew the spirit was there. "The pride is alive," he kept telling his players. There was a tradition to Batavia basketball, and Brasky was determined to bring it back.
Since that first winning season in 1997, the Blue Devils have not dipped into double-figure losses. They've won eight division titles and are on a run of 14 consecutive winning seasons.
Brasky credits the young athletes for their willingness to work hard, to work year around, but they're only willing to make that committment, Brasky said, because "the pride is alive."
"Now the kids (have) bought in," Brasky said. "We won. They want to be part of a winner."
Just in basketball alone, Brasky probably interacts with more than 250 students in the community every year. Besides the regular varsity season, Brasky coaches basketball year round, including summer camps and clinics. Every step of the way, he stresses that it isn't just about winning. It's about developing the habits that make young men succeed in life.
"I try to instill that all of this hard work you’re doing is not just to win basketball," Brasky said. "That’s part of it. We want to win. But these are habits that you’re going to carry on the rest of your life. These habits of hard work, and dedication, and loyalty and commitment – those are what companies look for. You will be a success in life if you can get these values."
No matter how important the game, Brasky said -- miss a practice, break a rule, and you're not likely to play. That isn't a position that is always popular with fans or parents, but it's the only way, Brasky said, to teach players to be winners both on and off the court.
“I made a decision early in my career that I would never put winning over doing what ‘s right for the kids,” Brasky said.
It's an ethic that has paid off. In the application to the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce for Brasky's 2009 Geneseean of the Year Award, student after student said they learned the value of hard work from Brasky and it has helped them be more successful in life.
"Coach Buddy Brasky shared with me the passion to be the best you can be in life," wrote Scott "Par Par" Partridge (Class 1997). "Every practice, every game, every scrimmage we took part in was completed with 100-percent effort -- if not, then we enjoyed running suicides until we did. I have learned from Coach Brasky that hard work and dedication pays off. Those who push themselves as hard as they can will reap the rewards in the end. The quote, 'The Pride Is Alive,' was printed on our shirts and through playing for coach, I took that to heart. Have pride in who you are and what you do -- give it your all and you have nothing to regret."
Brasky said he was moved by all the testimonials from former players, just as he is when he sees those young men out in the community or at games.
"You hope you're making an impact on kids," Brasky said. "They never tell you that until they get to be like 25 years old. A lot of times, they will see me out -- I'll be at dinner -- and they'll be with their girlfriends and they'll come over to the table, or a lot of them will come and see me before a game, or wait until after, so we can talk -- that's a very, very rewarding part of the job."