BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — On Friday, two high school rivals came together to honor late basketball coach Gabe Michael, who led the team at St. Joe’s for the past five seasons. He died unexpectedly last month at the age of 43.
During warmups before their game, both St. Joe’s and Canisius players and coaches wore T-shirts to honor Coach Michael.
The game brought together members of Michael’s family, current students, alumni and staff to honor his life. In attendance were many of the people he touched as a role model, mentor and friend — one who will be deeply missed.
“Coach was a great mentor, great personality, always big, always energetic. I truly miss him and [he was] a great man,” said graduated Marauder Isaiah Odom.
Gabe Michael began coaching at St. Joe’s in 2018 after previously serving as the bench boss at Williamsville South and as an assistant at Canisius College.
Michael graduated from Canisius High School in 1998; it was only fitting for these two storied rivals to set aside their differences for someone who touched both sides of the court.
“It adds so much raw emotion to this game,” said St. Joe’s President Chris Fulco. “It’s going to be a heightened emotional night for both teams. Still though at the heart of it, it’s two fierce rivals who are competing. Coach Michael would have loved it.”
During his five and a half years as a Marauder, the community watched Michael build a winning basketball program, turning the team into what school leaders say is now a genuine family.
“He was phenomenal with his players, huge for the St Joe’s community and just the basketball community in general. Really cared about his players, and that’s why you see the love around here for him,” St. Joe’s Board Member Johnny Graves said.
Concluding the ceremony, Coach Michael’s family was gifted a special basketball highlighting his achievements.
The school also announced a Coach Gabe Michael Memorial Basketball endowment fund which will continue his legacy of supporting student athletes and the team.
“Everything that we’ve been through with Gabe as far as practices and games [was memorable]. The person he was, was just unbelievable,” Odom said.