Joe Mazella was not difficult to find.
Attend any Henninger boys basketball game from 1987 to 2002, and the one constant was Mazella, clad in a colorful sweater (usually black and gold), barking out instructions to his players as the Black Knights established a hoops dynasty that thrives to this day.
A mere seven years after leaving the coaching ranks to become vice-principal at Henninger, Mazella passed away Saturday morning at his home in Eastwood. He was 51.
In both his coaching and administrative roles, Mazella was an immensely popular figure at Henninger, known as much for his personality and sense of humor as it was for his skills on the court and in the classroom.
Growing up in Eastwood, Mazella attended Bishop Grimes High School, where he graduated in 1976. Six years later, Mazella came to work at Henninger, where he would stay for nearly three decades. And in 1987, Mazella took over as the school's varsity basketball coach.
With stars like Lazarus Sims, Maurice Brown, Marquise Walker, Latavia Escho and Andray Blatche, the Black Knights became, most seasons, the team to beat in Class A, then the large-school designation (it's now Class AA).
Overall, Mazella's teams went 245-78, for a win percentage of .759, which is slightly more than 16 wins per season.
Henninger's first Section III Class A title under Mazella came in 1991, when the Black Knights reached the state finals in Glens Falls with Sims as point guard before falling to Mount Vernon. Later, Sims would lead Syracuse University to the NCAA championship game in 1996.
Another trip to the state final came in '95, with Walker and Brown (Henninger's all-time leading scorer with 1,749 points) leading the way. Again, Henninger couldn't quite reach the summit, falling this time to LaSalle, of Niagara Falls.
Following a three-year stretch of sectional titles from 1995 to '97, Henninger underwent a "slump" of five years without a title as Corcoran (twice), Liverpool and Watertown took turns at the top.