Coach Falz has endured for 38 seasons

Tourtellotte Memorial boys' basketball coach Tony Falzarano, in a photo from the 2009 season, needs one victory for the 600th of his career, falling short Monday night against St. Bernard.
Tourtellotte Memorial boys' basketball coach Tony Falzarano, in a photo from the 2009 season, needs one victory for the 600th of his career, falling short Monday night against St. Bernard.

Montville - Tony Falzarano, wearing the same repeated look of exasperation, gave himself an unwitting compliment in the middle of the game Monday night:

"How do guys do this for a living?" he wondered aloud, referring to the vocation of coaching basketball. "I mean, they must be tapioca at some point."

Funny, though, how in many ways Falzarano has done exactly this for a living. This is who he is. Coach Falz. That's saying something, given how he taught for decades in the Putnam school system. And now he's the mayor. Yes. The mayor of Putnam. The honorable Anthony P. Falzarano.

"Hizzoner" was supposed to be at a Board of Selectmen meeting Monday night. Instead, he was in Montville, pursuing career coaching victory No. 600.

Tough night for Coach Falz. His Tourtellotte Tigers lost to St. Bernard 68-55. No. 600 must wait till tonight when the Tigers are home against Wheeler.

To think, though, that he's endured and prevailed at this for 38 years.

"If every game was like this," Falzarano said after, "I'd have quit a long time ago."

The Mayor has not lost his fastball. And he delivered a few right under the chin of the game officials. Let's just say Falzarano thought the game was called too tight.

"An embarrassment to Eastern Board officials," Falzarano said. "You can't frustrate kids to the point where they don't give a (hoot) anymore. They're calling these little touch, touch, touch (fouls) then our kid gets wacked nothing happens.

"They're hiding behind 'it's new NCAA rules.' That's all (expletive). They've taken the spirit and the intent of the game out. It's not basketball anymore. Not just this game. I don't give a (hoot) what they say. Show a pair and let the kids play basketball. You can't put kids in that kind of jeopardy. They're tentative.

"You're not supposed to criticize the refs. If they want to fine me, fine me," Falzarano said. "I don't give a (hoot)."

Falzarano yelled over to counterpart Mark Jones during one sequence and said, "you got (the shaft) on that call, Mark." After the game, Falzarano couldn't believe Jones got a technical foul for standing too far on the court coaching his kids.

"That's bush league. Totally bush league," Falzarano said.

Say this much for Hizzoner: He could be the first politician in the history of the world to sell out Board of Selectmen meetings. Seriously. You bring the popcorn.

This, folks, is Falz. Love him or not. Approve of the salty lexicon or not. He is a show unto himself. And for 38 years, he understood how you never really take the time to dissect the moment when you are in it. Now the moment has him. No. 600 is inevitable. And with it comes reflection.

It began at Putnam High in 1973.

"It was a bleeping spanking, too," he said, alluding to victory No. 1 over Ellis Tech.

Falzarano was the mayor of the town before he was the mayor. Game nights were Connecticut's version of Hickory. Falzarano was Gene Hackman, but if only if Gene Hackman chain smoked before games. The student section, otherwise known as the Z Crew, lit up the Quiet Corner.

"I've made a ton of friends. In the media, in the brotherhood of coaches," Falzarano said. "Guys hate me and I could give a (hoot). Lot of guys I don't like either. … I reflected the other day. I've got a good wife (Carolyn) who has put up with a lot of (stuff). She pampers when I have to be pampered, she yells at me when I have to be yelled at. Great assistant coaches. Dave Vitale for over 25 years. Jim Bartolomei. Good solid relationships."

Falzarano gets another swing at 600 tonight. At least it would come at home. The town of Thompson should pull a Putnam for one night. Who knows if 600 happens again to anyone any time soon?

"The kids are pressing. They're like the kid who has 998 points," Falzarano said. "I wish it was over. I just want to win one game and let's get it done."

Then Hizzoner paused and said, "I can't wait for (today). But now, I'm going to go home and have several beers."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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