Apache Paschall left his team’s celebration, wandered slowly over to the end of the bench and sat down. All alone, while the Lady Kingsmen hugged and clapped and cheered, the Nazareth coach bowed his head and cried.
When the players, who had just completed a 60-54 win over Murry Bergtraum in the New York State Federation Class AA championship game Sunday at the Times Union Center in Albany, saw Paschall, they were taken aback.
Most of them had never seen him tears in his eyes quite like that.
“He never tells us how he feels,” Naz junior point guard Darius Faulk said. “He always goes into some zone. He just looks. Stares. No emotions. He never shows emotions unless he’s mad.”
Paschall couldn’t contain himself Sunday afternoon. The thoughts of what had transpired over the last 365 days had flooded his mind. Almost one year ago to the day, St. Michael Academy announced it would close, leaving Paschall and his players without a school and a basketball program. It took months and countless trials and tribulations to find Nazareth.
The East Flatbush, Brooklyn school welcomed the former Eagles with open arms. But it was hardly smooth sailing from there. Early in the season, a published report chronicling Paschall’s recruiting exploits landed him in hot water with his new league, CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I. The investigation took almost the entire season and the coach is now close to being cleared.
Days after the investigation story broke, Paschall was hospitalized with congestive heart failure, an affliction that he is still battling and will continue to battle. Add in smaller stuff, like Syracuse-bound star Tiffany Jones being jumped on the subway, and it has been an extremely long year for the coach and his girls.
“People don’t realize how hard it was to just keep it together, keep these kids together against all odds and just get to this point,” Paschall said. “All of us could have cracked at any time and we really, really stuck together as a family from Tiffany getting jumped, to my heart problems, to the investigation – everything.”
This Federation title, Paschall said, was much sweeter than the one he won two years ago at St. Mike’s. So when he left his assistant coaches to be by himself at the end of the bench, he reflected on all that has occurred and what this accomplishment means.
“It was relief and joy,” he said. “I’m tired. I enjoy being with the kids. They needed it. The school needed it. And I needed it. I needed this for myself. I needed it. It made everything worth it.”
Assistant coach Lauren Best wasn’t surprised Paschall broke down. But senior Taylor Ford was, but she knows everything was beginning to wear on the tough guy from the streets of the Lower East Side.
“Somebody is always talking about you, sooner or later you’re gonna break,” Ford said. “He doesn’t really break. But today I think it showed that he does have feelings, too.”
All of those came out at once. He thought of the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I regular-season and diocesan crowns, two titles owned by Christ the King over the last three decades. He thought about beating CK again two weeks in the CHSAA Class AA state championship. He couldn’t help but to be in awe of Sunday’s game, how his team that didn’t have a school last year got Nazareth its first-ever girls state Federation crown.
“One day these kids are gonna look back and they’re gonna reflect on that, that we did something that will probably never be done again,” Paschall said. “And it was great, man. It was great.”