By SETH STRINGER
NICEVILLE — Even before the ballots were cast, Steve DeMeo was a shoo-in for Panhandle Conference Coach of the Year.
A fifth straight league crown will do that, the nets cut down after a 10-2 Panhandle mark capped off a 24-4 regular season.
And, really, it's an all-consuming job for DeMeo, who has to wear more hats than, say, a Division I coach because of money and personnel restraints.
"Father, big brother, quote-unquote 'mom' to them ... I think I'm better than ever at this level because of all those parts," said DeMeo, who shares the responsibilities – and by extension the award – with his coaching staff of Adam Sweeney, Brannan Anthony and Rosbie Mutcherson. "If you can't relate to kids today, you have zero chance of winning.
"The X's and O's are important, but the relationships you have with these kids is so much more important."
It's those relationships that produce titles. And titles are what DeMeo celebrates more than the individual accolades.
Yet this award is affirmation of the juggernaut he's built at NWF State, where's gone 166-26 in six seasons to improve his overall win percentage as head coach to .731 (261-96 over 13 seasons).
Prior to his time at NWF State, DeMeo spent 17 years coaching at the Division I level. Teams he has coached have participated in four NCAA Tournaments and have made five NIT appearances. DeMeo has also served as head coach at Monroe Junior College (1993-1995), assistant coach at Iona College (1995-1998), assistant and associate head coach at Providence College (1998-2008), assistant coach at University of Central Florida (2008-2009), head coach at Newberry College (2009-2010) and associate head coach at Hofstra University (2010-2013).
DeMeo's Career Honors
2019 Panhandle Coach of the Year
2018 "Basketball Times" #1 Hottest Junior College Coach
2018 FCSAA/NJCAA Region VIII Coach of the Year
2018 Panhandle Conference Coach of the Year
2017 Red Auerbach Coach of the Year
2017 Panhandle Conference Coach of the Year
2016 FCSAA/NJCAA Region VIII Coach of the Year
2016 Panhandle Conference Coach of the Year
2015 Spalding NJCAA Division 1 Coach of the Year
2015 FCSAA/NJCAA Region VIII Coach of the Year
2015 Panhandle Conference Coach of the Year
2007 Named one of Rivals.com Top-25 Assistant Coaches (Providence College)
1995 NJCAA Region XV Coach of the Year (Monroe Junior College)
1994 NJCAA Region XV Coach of the Year (Monroe Junior College)
His six seasons at NWF State include five Panhandle crowns, three Region 8 titles and counting, an NJCAA national championship in 2015, two Final Fours and four straight Elite Eight appearances.
And soon it could be a fourth Region 8 title for the Raiders, who begin the postseason march Thursday against Daytona State (25-6) in Ocala.