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BASKETBALL: Three generations, one gym, one special night for Team DeMaio

BASKETBALL: Three generations, one gym, one special night for Team DeMaio

MERIDEN — The DeMaio family usually spends most winter nights in high school gymnasiums, but typically not in the same one.

On Tuesday night, three generations of DeMaios were on hand at Joseph Schiopucie Gymnasium for the Guilford-Wilcox Tech boys basketball game.

Coach Jeff DeMaio’s Guilford team made twelve 3-pointers in an 83-47 non-conference win over host Wilcox Tech, which starts DeMaio’s son Nathan at guard.

To add to the Senior Night festivities, George DeMaio — Jeff’s father and Nate’s grandfather — was calling the action for WELI.

George DeMaio, known affectionately as “The Coach,” has been a fixture in high school sports at New Haven-based radio stations since 1983. After Tuesday’s game, he interviewed both his son and grandson.

“It’s a range of emotions,” Jeff DeMaio said. “I’ve gone through it before with my older son. You are focused on winning the game. There’s no question about that. We are trying to stay focused on the game itself, but I’m proud of my son for the career he’s had at Wilcox Tech. He’s had success on the basketball court and soccer field.

“It’s a celebration on Senior Night. I always say, ‘I hope he plays well and we win.’”

Jeff DeMaio and his wife Cory have lived in Wallingford for 22 years. High school sweethearts — Cory was a cheerleader when Jeff was point guard for the East Haven basketball team — they have been married for 24 years.

Cory was on hand Tuesday night at Wilcox. Nathan DeMaio said she cheered for him even at the expense of Jeff’s team.

“She always roots for me first to win,” Nathan said with a laugh. “My dad always says he hopes I score 30, but they win. I really don’t know about my grandpa. He might be undecided.”

“My loyalties were with the boys I was coaching,” Jeff DeMaio said. “We needed a Guilford win and I’m sure the family is divided. My wife is in the toughest spot. The game is fun and a great event. On a lot of other levels, it can be a little uncomfortable.”

George said he and his wife Brenda, who live in West Haven, were rooting for everyone to do well on Tuesday night.

Grandpa George was in this same position in 2017 when Nathan’s older brother Sam, then a senior at Sheehan, played against Jeff’s Guilford squad in Wallingford.

“I can’t lose,” George said. “I root for Jeff DeMaio, my son, and Nate DeMaio my grandson. He’s been playing really well. He’s left his mark here at Wilcox as a captain in both soccer and basketball.

“A night like this will make you feel special inside,” The Coach added.

George and Jeff coached together for 10 years at North Haven. Jeff has been head coach of the Guilford boys since 2009.

“It’s been a lifestyle of mine for 28 years at the high school level, with the last 11 at Guilford,” Jeff said. “My dad started in radio in 1983. We’ve been going to games for a long time. It’s a big part of our lives.”

Jeff graduated from East Haven in 1990 and got the coaching bug when he was 20.

Despite the hectic schedule, he still gets to see his son play. Tuesday was the 13th Wilcox Tech boys basketball game he’s seen this season.

Various coaches and athletic directors have shuffled game schedules for this to happen.

“It’s a huge challenge to see him play,” Jeff said. “I’ve been fortunate to have coaches and ADs who have worked with me. I was able to see a lot of my older son’s games at Sheehan, as well.

“You’d be surprised how many coaches are in the same position. I’ve been blessed to see my son play a lot this year.”

Jeff and Nathan have father-son basketball chats after games or practices and while watching games on TV at night.

“We are really close as a family,” Nathan said. “Basketball really ties us in together. My dad and I get home, sit down and watch the West Coast basketball games together.

“He’s a coach before he’s a dad sometimes. It’s great to grow up disciplined — not strict, but in line. It helps me grow as a person and as a player.”

Jeff’s scouting report on his son on the court?

“He’s improved a lot,” Jeff said. “I think, fundamentally, he’s very solid and plays hard. I think he’s unselfish. He’s a guy that will do whatever it takes to win a game. He’s a coach’s kid and he plays like that.”

George said Jeff is one of the better coaches in the area, although that does not preclude him from giving his son occasional advice.

“He’s probably my biggest supporter and strongest critic,” Jeff said of George. “I’m 47, but you don’t get away from hearing about what you are doing right or what you are doing wrong.

“We coached together. He’s around a lot. He’s broadcast a handful of games each year I’ve been coaching. No one has done more for high school sports than he has and it’s always fun having him at the game.”

George said he always thought his son would be a coach.

“He learned from the greatest mentor of all time in (East Haven’s) Ed Crisafi,” the elder DeMaio said. “He grew up learning the game and coaching personnel. He changes offense and defense each year according to his personnel. He knows the game very well.”

The DeMaios have many family gatherings. George said Nathan are usually side by side.

“A long time ago, Nathan would always tell me, ‘Grandpa, you are I are always on the same page.’ I would always tell him, ‘You’re right,’” George related. “He’s going to be 18 in December and, to this day, when we got out as a family, he always sits next to me. When a kid is that old and still wants to be with his grandpa, that’s pretty good.

“We are a very close family. I had my two sons young and grew up with them,” George added. “They not only became my sons, but they came my good buddies. We are very close as a family and sports keeps us together.”

Nathan scored 13 points against Guilford on Tuesday. He said the night was a great experience.

“It was awesome,” he said. “It’s not something a lot of people get to experience. When I came out in the fourth quarter, I saw my grandpa and pointed to him. It was special.”