With a tremendous record of success built up over a quarter-century, Bishop Ludden boys basketball head coach Pat Donnelly was bound to reach the 400-win plateau.
That Donnelly did so against the school where his coaching career began only seemed fitting.
On the basis of big performances from Frank Smith and Rick Montgomery, the Gaelic Knights beat East Syracuse-Minoa 66-56 last Friday night on its home court in Geddes.
"I was fortunate," said Donnelly. "I've been blessed by having so many great kids through the years, plus a lot of fans and friends, and I'm glad it worked out so it (the 400th win) could happen at home."
As the game ended, Ludden fans gave Donnelly a standing ovation as he was presented a special commemorative basketball autographed by all the team's players.
None of his current players were born when Donnelly, fresh out of SUNY-Potsdam, took a job as the JV coach at ESM in 1981. Two years later, he went to the varsity ranks, where he led the Spartans for four seasons.
Then in 1987, the job at Ludden, where Donnelly graduated in 1976, opened up when Jerry Wilcox stepped down. All Wilcox had done was accumulate a 214-94 record in 14 seasons, twice reaching the state finals. Anyone succeeding him would be held to a high standard.
Eager to coach at his alma mater, Donnelly left ESM and came back to Geddes. In 21-plus seasons at Ludden's helm, Donnelly's teams have won eight sectional titles and, in 1994, reached the pinnacle by grabbing the state Class C championship.
Titles got more elusive when Ludden got moved up to the Class AA ranks earlier this decade. However, the Gaelic Knights have revived in the Class A ranks, going 16-6 a season ago and enjoying a 5-2 start this winter.