Big Albion crowd turns out for Coach D’s Hall of Fame induction
BUFFALO – Retired Albion football coach Dick Diminuco joined 12 other athletes and sports leaders in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame on Wednesday. None of the other inductees, including NFL and NHL players, could top Diminuco in fan support at the banquet.
Coach D filled eight tables with former players, coaches, teachers, friends and family.
His crowd of supporters gave him an enthusiastic cheer when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“He has touched so many lives in such a positive way,” said Randy Knaak, who succeeded Diminuco as Albion’s athletic director. “People are glad to have an opportunity to celebrate his special day with him.”
Knaak played tackle for Diminuco in 1980 and 1981. The team in Knaak’s senior year played at Rich Stadium. It was an unforgettable experience, Knaak said.
He credits his coach for pointing him to college and connecting him with the physical education program at Canisius College.
“I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today without him,” Knaak said.
When Knaak graduated, Diminuco encouraged him to take a job at Albion, first in the correction room and as a coach for three sports. Knaak, a P.E. teacher, said Diminuco was a mentor to his players, coaches and the other teachers.
“He wasn’t just a coach to us,” Knaak said before dinner at the Hyatt Regency in Buffalo. “He was more than a coach.”
Diminuco won 204 games with Albion, including state championships in 1983 and 1987. When he retired from Albion, he took the job as coach at Alden for four seasons, including a 31-3 record the last three years. Diminuco won 242 games in his career with only 70 losses.
Knaak and Dan Monacelli put the call out in the Albion community to see who would want to attend the induction ceremony, where tickets cost $75.
“It wasn’t hard to get people here,” Knaak said.
Monacelli, now the middle school principal, played on Diminuco’s first team at Albion in 1979, a squad that played at Rich Stadium. Monacelli today counts Coach D as one of his best friends.
Diminuco steered Monacelli to Ashland University in Ohio, and welcomed him back to Albion as a teacher and coach after college.
“If it wasn’t for Dick Diminuco I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing,” Monacelli said.
Monacelli said the coach treats people like they are a son or daughter.
“The turnout here tonight is because of all the relationships he’s formed over the past 40 years,” Monacelli said.
Albion was a perpetual powerhouse for three decades under Coach D, regularly defeating teams from larger schools. Monacelli said Diminuco stressed team over individuals.
“He made everybody believe that we were one,” Monacelli said. “He didn’t care who scored or who made the tackle. It was about doing what’s right and winning. He is the man, end of story.”
Diminuco called the induction in the Hall of Fame “very special.” The turnout, from so many at Albion, was “very humbling,” he said at the banquet.
“I’ve seen a lot of people tonight I’ve haven’t seen in a long time,” he said.
During his induction speech he thanked his wife of 37 years, Dale, for being such a great life partner. “I outkicked my coverage when I got you, honey,” he said.
“He wasn’t just a coach to us. He was more than a coach.” – Randy Knaak on Coach Dick Diminuco
Diminuco had a reputation as an intense coach who sometimes loudly voiced his displeasure with officials.
“One of my regrets is that I was very tough on football officials, especially in my younger days,” Diminuco a crowd of about 700 in Buffalo. “I feel bad about that, really I do. I’m serious, I do. I never won a debate with them.”
He referred to himself as “just an old football coach.” But the Hall of Fame committee said he had an impact of thousands of high school athletes in Western New York.
Diminuco said he is thankful for his career in high school athletics and the many relationships through coaching.
“I have not touched as many people as have touched me,” he said. “I have had so many great role models and mentors in my life.”