Dr. Leonard Serfustini

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Basketball Coach

In the movie “Hoosiers” a basketball team of young men learns to fight the odds, instead of each other, emerging in victory under the guidance and steadfast influence of its coach. Art may imitate life, but true stories abound where perseverance, dedication, and a desire to make a difference, create a powerful driving force behind achievement, on and off the court. One needs to look no further for a local example of success-from-adversity than Len Surfustini.

In 1942, Len was a member of the National Championship basketball team, the Butler Mitchell Boys Club, from Buffalo, New York. After earning his degree in education at the University of Buffalo, where he also played football, tennis, and basketball in the late 1940s, Len’s desire to teach melded with his athletic interests. He began his coaching career as freshman basketball coach at UB, simultaneously earning his master’s degree in education. A year later he was recruited as varsity basketball and tennis coach as well as assistant football coach at Troy State University in Alabama. Success quickly followed and in 1954 Len was named Coach of the Year at NAIA Troy State. He also finished his doctoral degree in education at the University at Buffalo, proving that the best teachers never stop learning.

In 1956, 10 years after he entered UB as a freshman, Serfustini returned to Buffalo as UB’s varsity basketball coach. The circle was complete, but the story was about to unfold. In 15 years as basketball coach, Dr. Serfustini led the Bulls to six NCAA division tournaments. His 1964-65 team, which posted 19 wins, 3 losses, holds the record for the most wins in a single season at UB and his career 206 victories versus 105 losses stands as the best coaching record in UB history. Remarkable as his record is, it is made even more noteworthy, considering the turbulent times and civil unrest he endured at the university during the late 1960s.

Len Serfustini’s leadership was evident and productive in other areas of interest. He chaired a committee at SUNY Buffalo that produced the plans for the existing physical education and athletic complex at the Amherst campus. As Professor of Education and Department Chairman at Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) he developed a plan for the creation of the recreation center currently in existence on its campus. For his contributions to the communities he served, Dr. Serfustini was the recipient of numerous awards. Among them: the Distinguished Citizen Award from Buffalo’s William Paca Society; induction into the University of Buffalo Athletic Hall of Fame; recipient of the University of Buffalo Distinguished Alumni Award and recipient of the State of New Jersey Professional Achievement Award. At Troy State University, the alumni association initiated the Dr. Leonard T. Serfustini Scholarship Fund in his honor.

Serfustini’s influence continues to reverberate in Western New York as his coaching methods and philosophy have been adopted by more than 20 successful high school and college coaches.

Dr. Leonard Serfustini passed away at his home in St. Petersburg, Florida in December of 2009.