By SETH STRINGER
Steve DeMeo has received 12 coach of the year nods in his four years at NWF State. This one may be his biggest yet.
The Raiders men's basketball coach was named the 2017 Red Auerbach Coach of the Year, an award given annually to the nation's top Jewish college coach as voted on by the members of the Jewish Coaches Association.
"It's a staff award and it's affirmation to the success of our program," said DeMeo, whose mother was Jewish and father was Italian.
There's no bigger coaching namesake than the late, great Auerbach, a nine-time NBA champion as coach of the Boston Celtics and a 16-time champion as an NBA executive. His résumé is held in such high regard that the NBA Coach of the Year is awarded the Auerbach Trophy.
DeMeo, who praised his coaching staff of Rory Kuhn, Jake Williams and Tevin Baskin, was notified he was a finalist a couple of weeks ago. It turns out his résumé featured no peer.
This year the New Yorker led the Raiders to the program's first-ever 12-0 run through the Panhandle Conference and later to the program's second Final Four in three years. The Raiders, just a year removed from a national title run, finished the season 29-5 and fourth in the nation after upsetting No. 1-seeded San Jac in the Elite Eight.
His accolades were celebrated at a breakfast put on by the Jewish Coaches Association this past Saturday during Final Four weekend in Phoenix, Arizona.
When DeMeo is recognized, NWF State is recognized.
"I think we've done an incredible job of getting our brand out there through the many accolades this program has received," DeMeo said. "As (NWF State president) Dr. Devin Stephenson says, "The best is our standard and that's the way we live every day of our lives."
Now DeMeo and his staff will hit the recruiting trail hard. DeMeo will do so while mulling over a request to be an assistant coach for the U.S. men's basketball team under Doug Gottlieb in the Maccabiah Games, also referred to as the "Jewish Olympics."
"It'd be a three-week commitment in Israel but I'm still thinking it over," DeMeo said. "It'd be an amazing experience and great from a recruiting perspective. We'll see."