It was a smaller group of friends who made the trek to Waterbury Career Academy Friday night to watch Crosby boys basketball coach Nick Augelli win his 700th career game in his third try.
There were plenty more, between 40 and 50, who were there last Tuesday against Holy Cross, only to see Augelli come up short to his nephew Ryan Olsen, the head coach at Holy Cross.
Even his wife Roxanne, who went to both the Sacred Heart and Holy Cross games in hopes to see her husband reach the milestone, missed Friday’s game.
“She felt like she was the jinx, so she didn’t come,” Augelli said.
But the win was going to come some time in season No. 41. Augelli was already the second all-time winningest boys basketball coach in CIAC history. Ironically, Crosby defeated WCA when Augelli passed former Harding coach Charlie Bentley into second place all-time three years ago this month.
Now it has a nice round number to it.
“I went to church (at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Waterbury), on Saturday and probably had 10-15 people came up to me (to congratulate him),” Augelli said. “It’s started to sink in and it means a lot. I’m not sure who there was more pressure on. I think the kids felt they had to win it, too.”
Augelli has also received congratulatory messages from some former players, which included Anthony Ireland, a Register all-state selection in 2009. Part of what Ireland posted on Instagram was as follows: “Coach Augelli has meant the world to me & my career. Not only was he a great coach, but a mentor of mine and a person that has been in my corner whenever I needed him.”
Augelli wanted to get it over with to take the pressure off everyone and focus on the rest of the season. Getting to 700 wasn’t a goal: winning NVL and state championships was — and he has multiple titles in each.
As he said, Augelli, now 73, has accomplished all of his coaching goals already. And he has long surpassed how long he thought he would be on the bench.
“I thought maybe another year or two,” Augelli said. “I once told Ryan (his nephew) that I wouldn’t be around when he was playing and I’m still around when he is coaching. It’s funny when you start talking like that how long you will be around.”
Augelli went through heart bypass surgery a couple of years ago. But he says he feels fine now. Having his two assistant coaches by his side, Larry DeVito and Bill Mahony, for just over 60 years between them, has certainly helped. Augelli said all three of them will go out together.
The only coach left to catch is former St. Joseph coach Vito Montelli, who won 878 games in 50 seasons, retiring in 2012 after back-to-back Class LL state championships.
“I’m so happy for Nick. He had done a terrific job at Crosby for years,” Montelli said. “They’re lucky to have him there. I hope I’m around when Nick hits 800.”
The two legends squared off once during their career, according to Augelli: the second round of the Class LL state tournament. St. Joseph, the No. 2 seed, defeated No. 15 Crosby 73-63.
“From what I remember, they put a spanking on us,” Augelli recalled. “We made a comeback, but they controlled the entire game. After all these 41 years, certain things stick out in my mind.”
When asked what message he wanted passed along to Montelli, Augelli was brief: “Tell him his record is intact. I will not be around for another 178 wins,” he said.
THE FANTASTIC FOUR
With both Notre Dame-West Haven and SMSA losing for the first time last week, that leaves four remaining undefeated teams, all ranked in the top 10.
Let’s take a look at how they may end up finishing the regular season:
Sacred Heart (14-0). The state’s third ranked team has now won 119 straight Naugatuck Valley League games. Its last loss came in 2014. So this should be easy to pick, correct? Not so fast. Holy Cross and Naugatuck visit Alumni Hall. Prediction: Sacred Heart loses its first NVL game.
Norwich Free Academy (15-0). The state’s fourth-ranked team has already clinched the ECC Division I championship. Tough remaining home games against Fitch and Xavier remain. Prediction: NFA goes 20-0.
Prince Tech (15-0). The state’s eighth-ranked team has played a very good non-conference schedule, which included a game Monday at Wilbur Cross. Weaver and Bassick await, but this isn’t your typical CTC team — not even close. The Tigers are for real, even if they do lose a game. Prediction: Prince Tech goes 20-0.
Naugatuck (15-0). The state’s ninth-ranked team was expected to be a NVL contender, so this isn’t a surprise. The Greyhounds end their season with back-to-back games at Sacred Heart and home against Crosby. Prediction: Naugatuck finishes 20-0.