MAHOPAC, N.Y. – He’s done more jobs at Mahopac than most people can remember, and he’s one of a select few who people look at and immediately think: Mahopac High School.
Frank Miele, a 1967 MHS grad, was hired at Mahopac in 1972, took over as manager of the baseball team in 1980, and went on a 22-year run that saw Miele-led teams go 375-140, and included five Section 1 titles. His teams reached the state semifinals twice, he was named league Coach of the Year 15 times, and Section 1 Coach of the Year six times. He was the Daily News High School Coach of the Year in 1982, and is a member of the Mahopac High Sports Hall of Fame.
He also taught physical education, was an assistant football coach for 12 years, did a three-year stint as assistant principal, and spent 11 years as athletic director. Miele retired nine years ago from that position, before returning for the current school year, while Mahopac searched for a permanent replacement.
Miele shared a few highlights of a 22-year coaching career and of his 26 years at Mahopac.
“Having the opportunity to coach my son in baseball and football would be number one,” he said. “It’s something that isn’t easy but is something that is very special if it works out, and it definitely did in our case. He went on to play college baseball at Iona, and is a very successful principal in New Rochelle.”
Miele said being hired in 1972 at the school from which he had graduated just a few years earlier was a “dream come true.”
“Winning the school’s first sectional baseball title in 1982,” Miele said, recalling more top moments. “Recognition Night, where we honored our first responders after 9/11. Having three players I coached all win sectional titles on the same day (Pat Mealy in Class AA, Joe Gaudio in Class A and Rob Gilchrest in Class B). I felt like a proud father that day.”
Being selected as the director of athletics, physical education and health in 2000 was another milestone.
“I was so honored to be selected to replace Gerry Keevins,” Miele recalled. “I felt that, as a coach, I left my mark with my pinky. But as the athletic director, I would leave my impact with my entire hand on our school and program.”
Miele said it’s the relationships that he’s cherished most during his time at Mahopac.
“To be able to reach and mentor so many students during my career,” is the most satisfying thing,” he said. “I treat everyone with respect, try to find the good in everyone. I think it’s our job as educators to find out how to reach every student.”
Miele was asked what character traits he tried to instill. “Discipline, respect, understanding,” he said. “Remembering that it’s not always about you. It’s about hard work, being prepared, never giving up. Not allowing someone to tell you can’t do something. Being a person others can trust and count on.”
During his time managing the baseball team, Miele touched many lives and left a lasting impression.
Some of the most intense battles were when Mahopac met Carmel—one of the section’s oldest and strongest rivalries—in just about any sport.
During those battles through the ’80s and ’90s, there was no coach who got under Miele’s skin more than Carmel manager, Bob Shilling (and vice-versa).
The stories of the pair going at each other are legendary, if not somewhat exaggerated. But the games were often memorable, and always bitterly contested.
As Shilling recalls, Miele loved to stick it to him, and had his ways. “Our reputations were a bit blown out of context,” Shilling said. “But Coach [Miele] tried to get every edge. You’re supposed to give the visiting team 20 minutes before the game to warm up on the field. Coach Miele would start his warmup when I was supposed to have the field—every time—just to get under my skin.
“And umpires had nightmares when assigned to our games,” Shilling added. “One game, Coach Miele was thrown out before the first pitch, and I was gone in the first inning.”
But he learned who Miele was off the field.
“My son was pretty ill one season, and he was at Westchester Medical for some procedures,” Shilling recalled. “This was early in my career, and the nurse brought in a package for my son. It was from coach Miele—all shirts and hats. Coach thinking about my son shows the man he is. Big man, big heart. I have a lot of respect for Coach. I learned a lot by watching him—not just as a coach, but how to be a man. And he promised me one more game. I’m ready.”
Several of Miele’s players have gone on to coach, and one is Roy C. Ketcham manager, Pat Mealy, a 1989 MHS grad and All-Section pitcher/first baseman. Miele’s last game coaching actually was a sectional quarterfinal loss to Mealy’s Indians in 2001, a sort of “passing of the torch.”
Mealy has been at Ketcham for 20 years this spring, and says Miele was a huge influence.
“His impact is unreal,” Mealy said. “To say that he was just a coach would be an incredible understatement. I’m currently in my professional position because of the impact coach Miele has had on me. My biggest regret is never having the opportunity to coach under him in some capacity.”
Miele shared one of his favorite Mahopac-Carmel memories.
“It was 1989, my senior season, playing Carmel with the league on the line,” Mealy recalled. “It was a 2-2 game in the sixth, and I hit a ball that goes over a very short right-field fence at Mahopac. A Carmel player rolls over the fence trying to make a play, and gets hurt. I stop at second as umpires didn’t make any call, and then it was chaos. Carmel’s shortstop and I get into a shoving match, coach Miele breaks it up by picking me up and carrying me away. He rips me a new one for not staying ‘locked in.’ I tell him that I was only defending him, and their coach (Shilling) walked by me and called coach Miele an (expletive) for arguing for a home run, as his player was on the ground hurt.
“When I told Coach Miele that I was defending him, he then went after Shilling, as he was walking to the outfield to check on his player,” Mealy added. “I (along with others) had to now help restrain coach from going after Shilling. But we won the game and the league.”
Mealy said he also managed to squeeze a few free meals from school, charging them to Miele’s bill.
“Sharing the same last name as coach (different spelling) had many benefits in the school cafeteria line,” Mealy said. “Meals were simply charged to ‘my dad’s’ account. I often ate well in school.”
Dave Fleming is a 1987 MHS grad who played three years for Miele, an All-Section pitcher, and a standout in baseball and basketball. Fleming went on to win a National Championship for Georgia, and pitched four years in the Major Leagues, mostly for the Seattle Mariners. He said Miele held players accountable.
“We all went on a long run down the streets of Mahopac,” Fleming said of one recollection. “Mr. Miele and our assistant coach (Frank Gunn) were hiding, because there was a place for some of the players to cut across to shorten their run. Some did it, and Mr. Miele was waiting there and caught them, and we all had to go back and run extra. I did not cut—but he still says today that I must’ve known he was there, which is not true. He kept us accountable, and we never wasted any time on the practice field. That’s how I wanted it. He got the best out of us.”
Fleming added that Miele helped him make the right choice when he was trying to decide between baseball and basketball.
“My sophomore year, right after basketball, I was not really wanting to play baseball, thinking of focusing on basketball instead,” Fleming said. “Mr. Miele pulled me aside, talked about trying to figure out whether or not I was willing to stick with it for one year and then make my decision. Most coaches fail in communicating with players, but he was open and honest, and gave a young, confused kid an opportunity to work through some things. Obviously with being able to go play college baseball and Major League Baseball, that decision made a huge impact on my life. So, I’ve always been thankful that he was patient with me, willing to give me some time. He didn’t have to, because I wasn’t one of the best players on the team at that time.”
Frank Moloney (a 1992 graduate and All-League outfielder) played for Miele, was an assistant coach, and eventually managed the Indians as well. He said Miele had high standards.
“Coach Miele is a man who has very select principles both on the field and off,” Moloney said. “Hard work, self-motivation, having a competitive spirit. He instilled these qualities in countless players over the years. And while this may have contributed to their success as players, I’m sure many would agree that they’re values they’ve carried into the rest of their lives.”
Maloney said Miele never let his players quit. A philosophy that paid off more than once.
“I remember winning a section championship and making it to the state semifinals when I was one of Mr. Miele’s assistant coaches,” Moloney said. “We were behind by a number of runs to Clarkstown South at Renegade Stadium, and down to our last out with no one on base. But we came back to win. In that game and many others like it, coach Miele never let his players think giving up was an option. He made them believe that they could win even when it didn’t seem possible.”
Ted Lawrence, an All-Section catcher and MVP on Mahopac’s 1982 Section 1 championship team, said Miele was a major influence. Lawrence was Miele’s first scholarship player, and the first to be drafted (by the Detroit Tigers).
“I attribute many of my life successes to Frank Miele,”’ Lawrence said. “I played professional baseball, and had my high school number retired because of the successes I had as a player for Mahopac.
“He taught me toughness, discipline, commitment, work ethic, focus and much more,” Lawrence added. “He expected the best from each of his players, and I often said later in life that Frank’s greatest attribute as a coach was always getting the best/most out of his players. He coached in a way that was disciplined, tough and no nonsense.”
One of Miele’s most cherished memories is of coaching his son, and Franco Miele (a 1995 grad and All-Section pitcher/first baseman) said the experience also impacted him greatly.
“The most memorable experience I have of my father’s time coaching was being able to be with him at practices and games from the time I was able to walk,” Franco Miele said. “I basically grew up on the field with my father and his teams. I was able to see first-hand the impact that he had on his players’ lives. He taught them the value of hard work, teamwork, loyalty and just overall how to be a good person. He was all about building relationships, and it’s always been quite evident that he would do anything for his players and students.
“I had the privilege of playing for my father, and It was an experience that I would never change,” he added. “He’s an incredibly old-school coach, but he’s also the most loving and caring person I know. I could only hope to be half the educator, father, and person my father is. He’s a truly selfless person.”
And after being selfless for all these years, Miele will try to make time for himself and family (wife, Jean, three kids—Franco, 43, Kimberly, 46, Kristen, 42—and eight grandchildren), retiring for what he says is the last time.
“It’s been a magical ride,” he said. “It’s a career that my entire family allowed me to experience by always being there, always supporting all of the things I was involved in. My wife Jean has been, and will always be, our family rock.
“When I retired nine years ago for the first time, a lot of teachers were congratulating me, telling me, wow you’re so lucky, I bet you can’t wait to be done,” he added. “My answer was that I’m trying to hold on to my last few days because I love what I was doing, and in a few weeks, I was giving away something that was so dear to me, and I was trying to hold on to the end. They really did me a favor by bringing me back this year. It’s renewed my whole feeling about the school, community, the kids. I could have stayed or could have gone somewhere else. It’s flattering people still feel like I have something to give.”
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