Bill Bilowus

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High School Basketball Coach

Former Lackawanna Steelers Coach Bill Bilowus once reflected that “basketball has been my life.” The record certainly bears out this conclusion.

After starting as a player with Lackawanna High School and the University at Buffalo in the mid-1960s, Bill Bilowus grabbed the coaching reins at Lackawanna in 1969-70. His first squad finished a respectable 11-8; however, “respectable” was not acceptable to Bilowus.

Over the next 17 seasons, his Steelers established an unsurpassed standard of excellence for Western New York High School hoop teams. The Steelers compiled a record of 329-54 (.859), highlighted by unbeaten seasons in 1975-76 and 1976-77, 17 consecutive Erie County Interscholastic Conference divisional titles (featuring a 209-8 league record), the State Class AA title in 1979, State Class B runner-up status in 1985, 3 supersectional championship and a Western Conference Championship. The Steelers hold a record of 117 consecutive wins in ECIC divisional play spanning an 11-year period.

Bilowus’ Steelers posted six 20-win seasons, and two others which ended 19-1. His teams still hold records with 76 consecutive wins against Western New York opponents and 44 straight against State opponents. At the time of his retirement in 1987, Bilowus trailed only Mel Palamo of Timon in career wins for WNY coaches, and he had the best winning percentage of any active coach in the area.

The Steelers’ gaudy accomplishments led to a constant raising of the bar; initially content as league champions, Bill’s later teams learned to set their sights higher and covet state titles. Likewise, Bilowus gradually refined his goals and elevated his own ambitions as a coach and educator. Bilowus’ record was built on attention and respect toward his student-athletes, and it was that continuing concern which led him to obtain a Master’s Degree in administration from Niagara University in 1979 and accept a post as principal of the new Lackawanna Secondary Complex in 1987, a capacity in which he continues today.

While Bilowus’ basketball achievements captured the spotlight, he also coached the Steelers’ cross-country team to an undefeated divisional title in 1975, while his soccer team won the divisional, sectional and supersectional titles in his final year of coaching in 1977.

In retrospect, Bilowus undoubtedly cherishes his contributions as both coach and educator. His induction into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame recognizes equally those gifts to the fortunate students and athletes at Lackawanna High.