Chando takes his leave

For the first time in close to four decades, Red Hook’s benchmark sports team, the Varsity Basketball squad, will take the court without head coach Rod Chando.

Chando has just retired, but not before compiling more than six hundred wins with Red in his tenure as head coach. He never finished a season with a losing record. He’s a New York Sports Hall of Fame inductee and Red Hook’s most recognizable sports personality.

As one of the most respected and feared coaches in the area, Chando had a coaching style that was, to say the least, aggressive.

It was also fast-paced, passionate, particular and relentless.

So when the coach played around with the possibility of retirement before, he could never get into it. “Basketball’s been part of my life since I was 8 years old, as a player and so on,” he said. “I was afraid that if I got out, basketball wouldn’t be there.”

As it turns out, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Chando has been doing one-on-one coaching on the side for a while, an activity that gives him a chance to positively affect the development of young players and keeps him in the game he loves. He’s also been working as a freelance coaching consultant for teams that need a little direction. He’ll probably be in higher demand now, considering that the only payment he expects is modestly low.

“Maybe just buy me lunch,” he said.

Working with aspiring ball players was not just a way to keep active, Chando added. It’s helped him wean himself off varsity coaching before retirement, “to keep the passion with me,” he said. And the reason for his retirement is simple.

“I was coaching kids whose parents I’d coached years before,” Chando said. “I didn’t want to end up like Joe Paterno, 80 years old and still a coach. 38 years is a long time.”

Chando, who is 63, has also worked in Red Hook as a health and gym teacher for almost as long as he’s been a coach.

“Basically, I’m proudest of all the players who played for me who went on to lead successful lives. And teaching. People forget that I was a teacher (in Red Hook) for 36 years,” he said. That means probably one third of Red Hook High students were taught by him at some point in their school career.

“As a teacher, I love Red Hook,” he said.

But his stamp is strongest on Hudson Valley Hoops.

Many coaches in the immediate area are products of the Chando system, including Rich Dalzell, Red Hook’s Varsity assistant coach; Andrew Makebish, Red Hook’s Junior Varsity coach (and Chando’s potential replacement); Dave Aierstok, Rhinebeck Head Coach, and John Funk, Coleman’s Varsity Head Coach.

That’s not to mention the scores of Chando’s players who have extended their career beyond high school. As recently as 2008, Red Hook center Greg Nero went on to play Division I basketball for the MAAC’s Fairfield. Recent Red Hook grads Dan Totten, John Boland, and Spencer Dalzell are all playing college ball, too.

Oh. And the near complete monopoly he’s had on the Section 9 title. And the State Tournament appearances.

So whoever replaces Chando would be wise to take two things, at least, from Chando’s book. First, fortune favors the bold (and the brusque). Second, Red Hook is a basketball town, and leaving anything less than everything on the floor every night is unacceptable.

Winning shouldn’t be much of an issue in the near future, luckily. The Raiders’ JV squad led the league with a 13-1 record last season while starting two freshmen, even though they didn’t have their 6’5” starting center, freshman Will Avis, because he was called up to varsity to fill a roster spot opened due to Varsity injuries.

Chando has left an indelible mark in Red Hook, in the Valley, in New York State. He’s been instrumental in generating one of Red Hook’s greatest traditions. It’ll be foreign to see the Raiders piloted by anyone but Rod Chando – the man who, through his talent and will, turned Red Hook into an area powerhouse.

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