LINDEN, NJ - When most people look at Cherie Pizzano’s coaching career, they see the rings. They see the long list of titles, the trophies, the awards, and the elite athletes that have come through her championship bowling program at Linden High School over the past 19 seasons. But she sees it differently. She sees the faces of boys and girls whom she has treated like family and whom she has helped improve and to grow into successful adults.
“The best part about coaching is not the wins and the losses,” Pizzano said. “It’s seeing your athletes grow and develop into productive members of society. Those bonds that I’ve formed with those athletes, that’s what indicates to me what a good coach or what a good teacher is. That’s my legacy. Winning championships is absolutely amazing. I always want to win, and I demand excellence, but it’s those relationships that I have forged with those kids.”
Because of nearly two decades of successes on and off the alleys, Pizzano has been chosen for induction into the New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association Hall of Fame. She will be honored March 24 at an induction dinner in Princeton.
Pizzano said she was shocked by the selection.
“To know that I’m going into a Hall of Fame where I see my idols is so humbling,” she said. “It’s so overwhelming that you almost can’t even believe it. I know of other coaches that are in there and I know how much of an impact they’ve had on sports in New Jersey.”
Athletic Director Steven Viana said he was “delighted” at Pizzano’s well-deserved honor.
“Coach Pizzano has been a mainstay in the Linden athletic program for over 25 years,” he said. “She has built teams and relationships that span the decades. Talk to any one of her players and they will all tell you the same thing, that Coach Pizzano knows how to pull the best out of every single individual on her team.”
Pizzano is the sixth coach – and the first woman – inducted into the Hall of Fame from Linden Public Schools. The others are Edward Cooper (inducted in 1967), Joseph Martino (1977), Frank Catale (1985), Wilbur Aikens (2002) and Phil Colicchio (2011).
'Pizzano’s résumé as bowling coach is impressive since taking over the program in 2000. Her teams have an overall record of 228-65. The Tigers won sectional titles in 2005, 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2018; Union County titles in 2003, 2005, 2015, 2018 and 2019; and Watchung Conference titles in 2004, 2005, 2015 and 2018.
This past season, the Tigers finished at 14-3, capped off a 43-match winning streak that stretched back two seasons, and won the Union County Tournament. They may have added to the hardware in the states, but a key bowler, sophomore James Fitz, was struck by a fluke injury. The rest of the varsity quintet included senior Darius Lewis, and juniors Anthony Golabek, Matt Soto, and Justin Peters.
Pizzano deflects a lot of the credit for her success to her bowlers and support system.
“I have been very blessed to have a multitude of talented athletes who work very hard,” she said. “Plus, the dedication and devotion of families, parents who have had my back, no matter what. Getting up at 6 o’clock for a tournament on a Saturday. I’ve always had the most amazing support from the bowling family.” Viana said Pizzano is being modest.
“Coach Pizzano is as unassuming as they come,” he said. “She doesn’t look for the spotlight even though her well-documented successes speak for themselves. This honor could not be bestowed upon a more deserving individual.”
Individually, Pizzano was named Star-Ledger Bowling Coach of the Year for North Jersey Section 2 three years in a row, 2003-05, and NJSCA Bowling Coach of the Year in 2007.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have Ms. Pizzano as a coach and teacher at Linden High School,” said Superintendent Danny A. Robertozzi. “The care that she shows for her athletes on the bowling team and for all her students make her a Hall of Famer on a daily basis. She is one of the best coaches we’ve ever seen in Linden and is a perfect choice for this honor. Congratulations!”